WILLIAMSBURG — On a night when the officials were “letting them play,” the Middlesboro Lady Jackets used a stellar defensive effort to hang tough with a physical Lynn Camp team. However, a potential game-winning shot rimmed out in the closing seconds and the Lady Wildcats escaped with a 37-35 win in the 13th Region All “A” semifinals.
“There were a few times we threw the ball away in a tight situation and let them get the lead a little bit. But I thought our kids did a good job of fighting back. They never quit,” said Lady Jacket coach Elgie Green.
Heather Wilson hit three free throws and Merita Burke added a basket as Lynn Camp scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to take a 29-24 lead. The Lady Jackets got baskets from seniors Carissa Padgett and Taylor Moyers and a pair from 7th-grader Blair Green, but the lead was back to 37-32 when Wilson hit both ends of the bonus with 23.4 seconds to play.
Middlesboro showed the heart of a champion as they continued to battle back over the closing seconds. Green drew a foul on a drive to the basket with 15 seconds left. She hit one free throw and missed the second, but Padgett grabbed the rebound and drew a foul. Padgett hit both of her shots from the stripe to close the gap to 37-35 with 13 seconds remaining.
Lauren Spurlock and Padgett trapped a Lynn Camp player on an in-bounds play and forced a turnover, so MHS had plenty of time to set up their final possession. Bailey Hensley got a good look at a 3-pointer from the left elbow, but the shot rimmed out as the clock ticked under three seconds. Padgett again secured a big offensive rebound and appeared to be getting held as she muscled up a final shot. No foul was called on the play and the buzzer sounded as the Lady Wildcats held on.
“We put ourselves in a situation to win there at the end. Man, I just knew that shot was going in that Bailey took. It was down and popped right back out,” Green added. “Carissa got a big rebound and I thought she should have been going to the line, but they decided differently. “
Wilson led Lynn Camp with 14 points, including an 8-of-9 effort from the free throw line. Kayla Smith added nine points while Burke finished with six.
The Lady Jackets were led by Green’s 15 points. Hensley finished with six, while Padgett and Moyers added four each.
“I thought we took good shots and Blair played within herself. This is the semifinals of the Class A against a good Lynn Camp team, that’s a lot of pressure on these young kids. I thought (Blair) stepped up and did a nice job of taking care of the basketball and hitting the shots that she did get,” coach Green said. “It takes 32 minutes of a total team effort and we were almost there.”
Lynn Camp’s Brianna Hollin came in off the bench to score four points in the first quarter as the Lady Wildcats opened up a 9-6 lead.
Green scored four of her points in the second period and Hensley hit a 3-pointer, but Wilson scored six and the Lynn Camp lead was 19-15 at the half.
The defensive struggle continued in the second half. The Lady Jackets gave up just five points in the third quarter — a two and a three by Smith. Meanwhile Hensley hit another 3 and Moyers, Spurlock and Green added baskets as the game was tied at 24 going into the fourth.
“With two starters out we don’t go real deep on the bench right now and most of those kids didn’t see much of a break. It was a physical game and that goes Lynn Camp’s way because they’re bigger, stronger and more mature than we are,” said Green. “But I thought my young kids did a good job of battling with them and hanging tight. That was a tough game to lose but they battled. Hopefully we’ll learn from this and keep getting stronger as the year goes on.”
Lynn Camp (13-3) advances to tonight’s championship game where they’ll meet Pineville at 7:30 p.m.
Middlesboro (3-13) returns to action next Thursday when they host Pineville.
— — —
Lynn Camp….9…10…5…13 — 37
Middlesboro…6….9…9…11 — 35
LYNN CAMP (37): Heather Wilson 14, Kayla Smith 9, Merita Burke 6, Brianna Hollin 4, Jessica May 2, Miranda Miller 2.
MIDDLESBORO (35): Blair Green 15, Bailey Hensley 6, Carissa Padgett 4, Taylor Moyers 4, Lauren Spurlock 2, Taylor Prater 2, Sophia Knuckles 2.