Just about everything went right for the Barbourville Tigers in Wednesday’s 51st District Tournament game against Pineville and a lot went wrong for the Mountain Lions as Barbourville pulled away for a 79-52 win. The Tigers advance to play host Knox Central in Friday’s championship game.
“You know, we’ve really been practicing hard now the last two weeks. We lost (junior guard) Brandon Gray back in January to a gall bladder attack and my son (senior Alexander Phipps) is in the state swim meet this week. The other kids sucked it up and they knew what to do,” Tiger coach Dinky Phipps said. “Win or lose I was going to be very proud of them because they went above and beyond the call of duty. Every kid is doing their job and contributing to the team.”
Things started pretty well for the Lions. Senior forward John Robbins opened the scoring with a free throw and junior guard Cody Collett hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at four. Collett converted a three-point play to give Pineville a 7-6 lead near the midway point of the first quarter.
Barbourville jumped into the lead on 3-pointers by Wade Liford and Jacob Rose. Freshman Will Adams scored inside for Pineville and a Collett free throw brought the Lions within 14-10 with just under two minutes left in the period. Brentley Perry hit a pair a 3s around a basket by Pineville senior Conner Ford and Barbourville led 20-12 after one.
Austin Eldridge opened the second quarter with a wide-open 3 — the Tigers’ fifth of game — and the Lions came out of their zone to man up on the shooters.
Senior center Jason Mills was able to take advantage with a basket and then a three-point play after grabbing an offensive rebound as the lead grew to 28-14 with 4:37 to play in the half.
“Obviously Barbourville was well-prepared. Early in the game we tried to execute some of the things that we wanted, but just couldn’t get the ball to fall and we made a couple of turnovers,” Mountain Lion coach J.D. Strange said. “They hit some big shots outside and that discouraged what we were trying to do defensively. We went man-to-man and they started getting the ball in low. They were hitting it both ways, inside and out.”
Pineville got a 3-pointer from Collett and a little jumper from Ford to get within nine. Ford came up with a steal and the Lions had a chance to get even closer, but Collett’s layup bounced out off the back iron. Mills tapped the rebound out to Perry who took the ball all the way in for a layup and a 30-19 lead.
That basket ignited a 13-0 run and Perry scored seven of those points, including three-point play with 1:06 to go in half that pushed the lead to 41-19.
It was 41-21 at the break after Adams drove in for a late Pineville bucket.
The Lions wouldn’t get closer than 18 in the second half as the Tigers continued to use their press to disrupt and hurry the Pineville offense. Barbourville moved the ball well on the offensive end and were either able to get good looks inside or score off of offensive rebounds to maintain their lead.
“Anytime you get in a district tournament and you have the lead it allows you to do so many things. The other team has to play because they can’t afford for the game to be slowed down and I didn’t want us to quit trying to score,” Phipps said. “A 20-point lead at halftime isn’t that much anymore in high school basketball with the 3-point shot and Pineville has so many good shooters. I told my kids to just keep attacking basket.”
Liford finished with 22 points to lead Barbourville while Perry added 18 and Mills 16.
“We’ve learned to play our roles. We knew we had to make some adjustments and we’re starting to make the extra pass and we’re looking for the people that can hit the three outside,” Phipps added. “We’ve really been working hard on our shooting.”
Collett led Pineville with 22 points and Ford finished with 12. Eight other Lions scored in the game, but Adams’ four points was the next highest total.
Pineville ends the season with a record of 10-19. It was the final game for seniors Dalton Ledbetter, Ford and Robbins.
“Dalton Ledbetter played with us two years and we appreciate him for coming out those two years. Conner Ford and John Robbins have been with us the entire time and they’ve waited and invested. Over the years they didn’t get a lot of playing time, but this year they played a lot and they had some exciting wins,” Strange said. “Obviously, this wasn’t a good night for us as far as winning goes. But I wish those kids good luck as they pursue their future.”
The Lions will have Collett and fellow guard Isaac Longworth returning as starters for their senior year next season along with Scotty Hoskins who started a handful of games when he was healthy. Adams and Tucker Woolum head a deep group of freshmen and sophomores that got their first significant taste of varsity playing time this year.
“Hopefully the kids we have returning will enjoy the game enough to understand that you’ve got to invest time into it — you can’t cheat the game. If they’ll invest their time during the off-season then we’ll have a chance to improve next year,” Strange added.
Barbourville (18-11) advances to play host Knox Central for the 51st District championship on Friday at 7 p.m.
With Wednesday’s result the eight teams that will be competing in the 13th Region Tournament have been decided. Barbourville and Knox Central will join Middlesboro and Bell County from the 52nd District, Corbin and Williamsburg from the 50th, and Clay County and Jackson County from the 49th. Championship games on Friday and Saturday will determine the one and two seeds and the draw will take place on Sunday.
“We know we are going to be in the regional tournament and you can’t win it if you don’t get there,” Phipps said.
The 13th Region Tournament will take place next week at The Arena in Corbin.
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PINEVILLE (52) — Cody Collett 22, Conner Ford 12, Isaac Longworth 2, John Robbins 1, Dalton Ledbetter 0, Will Adams 4, Tucker Woolum 1, Scotty Hoskins 0, John Sproles 3, Jalen Byrd 3, Jacob Shackleford 2, Thomas Brock 2, Joseph Simpson 0.
BARBOURVILLE (79) — Wade Liford 22, Brentley Perry 18, Jason Mills 16, Jacob Rose 3, Tanner Moore 1, Austin Eldridge 3, Alex Peyton 7, Tate Carter 7, Collin Grubb 2, Trevor Mills 0.