The Pineville Mountain Lions are on a summertime roll.
Pineville outscored Middlesboro 57-42 in their scrimmage on Tuesday afternoon to run their varsity record to 4-0 at their team camp and all four victories have been by double-digits. The Lions opened the camp with a 66-45 win over Barbourville, then beat Lynn Camp in Monday’s late scrimmage and Cumberland Gap in Tuesday’s early game by identical 57-47 scores.
“We’re excited about the energy and effort the kids are putting forth. You never know what to expect going into the summer — and we’re keeping it in mind that it is the summer — but I’m really pleased with the fact they’re playing hard, playing together and sharing the ball,” Pineville coach J.D. Strange said. “Being pleased doesn’t mean I’m satisfied. Hopefully we won’t get complacent with where we are. But at the same time it’s been a confidence builder.”
Against the Jackets, it was another fast start that put Pineville in control. Rising seniors Isaac Longworth (nine points) and Scotty Hoskins (8 points) combined for all of the Lions points as they opened the game with a 17-4 run.
Cody Collett converted a three-point play and then Jalen Byrd hit a 3, came away with a steal and found Will Adams for a layup that put the Lions up 25-6 with about 7:00 remaining in the half.
While Pineville has several players returning with varsity experience, Middlesboro lost five seniors to graduation and coach Russell Thompson is using the summer to experiment with various lineups around returning seniors Brandon Hale and Major Edwards.
Some rising freshmen gave the Jackets a spark late in the half and they used a 10-0 run to get back in the game. Freshman Tyler McCullough was able to hold his own on the boards and freshman Josh Lawson hit two free throws to start the run. Lawson’s steal led to a basket by Hale and then Lawson rebounded a missed Hale free throw and knocked down a 3-pointer. Hale added a 3 to cut the deficit to 25-16 with 3:15 to go in the half.
Lawson, McCullough, Chase Elliott and Josh Arnold are four incoming freshman that will be pushing for playing time going into next season.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do with them, but they’ve got the potential to be a pretty special group if they’ll keep playing and dedicate themselves to trying to get better,” Thompson said. “They’ve got what it takes to be successful. Not necessarily their freshman year, but as they get older.
“Right now we’re struggling to score but that will get better once we get into organized offense and guys start understanding their roles a little bit better. But everybody for the most part has been playing hard this summer and I’ve been proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
Hoskins scored twice off offensive rebounds and Will Adams added a transition basket to push the lead back to 16 before Middlesboro got buckets from Edwards and Hale to make it 32-20 at the break.
John Sproles hit a jumper in the lane and then a 3 in the early going of the second half to put PHS up 40-24. MHS junior Josh Buttery found Edwards for a layup and then had a tip-in of is own. Josh Arnold scored and Buttery converted a three-point play to get the Jackets as close as 44-33 with about 9:30 to play.
McCullough and Edwards scored inside and Lawson hit a 3 before two free throws from Hale made it 51-42 with 2:40 to go.
But Pineville answered every time they had to and scored the final six points of the game — a layin from Hoskins and two layups from Collett to set the final at 57-42.
Longworth finished with 15 points to lead the Lions while Hoskins added 14, and Collett and Adams scored nine apiece. Sproles finished with five, Byrd three and Thomas Brock two.
Hale led Middlesboro with 15 points, Edwards scored nine, Lawson eight and Buttery five. McCullough added three points and Arnold two to round out the scoring.
Pineville will take on Whitley County and Harlan at the camp on Wednesday. Thursday, Middlesboro will take on Barbourvill and Whitley County with Pineville closing things out with games against Harlan County and Williamsburg.