Pineville took a 43-42 lead with 30 seconds to play on two Jared Jeffery free throws. Jeffery, a sophomore guard, was fouled going to the basket after jumping in front of a bounce pass intended for Chris Good - it was one of eight turnovers the Lions forced while battling back from a seven-point third quarter deficit.
The Tigers got the ball to senior forward Aaron Grubb on the right post. He spun into the lane, made a little up-and-under move, and hit a four-foot jumper with Pineville center Dustin Day in his face. The shot gave Barbourville a one-point lead with 14 seconds remaining.
Pineville brought the ball down the court and called timeout with four seconds left. Senior guard Blake Hensley got the ball on the left wing and drove the baseline. He split two Barbourville defenders, and put up an off-balance layup that glanced off the rim at the buzzer.
“It was a tough game for either team to lose,” Pineville coach J.D. Strange said. “I thought our kids played remarkably well but you have to give Barbourville credit. They made the play at the end and we didn't.”
“Pineville doesn't need to get down,” said Tiger coach Dinky Phipps. “They did what they needed to do to win the game, the ball just bounced the right way for us and the wrong way for them.”
The Tigers led it 36-33 after three quarters.
One minute into the fourth, Chris Good hit a jumper to stretch the lead to five. But Day made a free throw- he was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound, James David Strange drove inside for a layup, then Day found Hensley open for a 13-foot jumper after the Barbourville zone collapsed around him to tie it at 38 with 4:53 to play.
The teams exchanged free throws and turnovers, then sophomore Cody Messer hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game to put the Tigers up 42-39 with 2:22 to play.
Hensley came right back with what looked to be a tying 3-pointer, but the officials ruled it was a two-point basket. Neither team scored again until Jeffery's free throws with 30 seconds to play.
“I didn't have a good view of it,” coach Strange said of Hensley's jumper. “You've got to trust that the refs made the right decision.”
Points were at a premium throughout the game as both teams lived up to their reputations with tough half-court defenses.
Day set the tone early with two block shots, but Barbourville's 2-3 zone kept the Lions from getting the ball inside. Neither team scored until Derek Vanover hit two free throws for the Tigers at the 5:44 mark of the first quarter.
Pineville scored the next 8 points as Derek Rosebalm and Dustin Warren each hit 3-pointers and Day scored on a put-back. Day caught an elbow to his eye going for a rebound and eventually had to leave the game with 1:04 to play in the first because of a small cut.
Barbourville immediately took advantage of his absence as Grubb converted a three-point play after getting fouled while scoring inside. A Rosenbalm basket made it 10-5 Lions after one.
Day returned in the second quarter to put up five points and Strange hit a pair of 3s as Pineville clung to a 21-18 lead at the half.
A 3-pointer from Messer and a basket from Travis Crawford gave the Tigers their first lead of the game, 25-24, with five minutes remaining in the third.
After a Day basket put the Lions back on top, Messer hit 3s on consecutive possession for a 31-26 Barbourville lead at the 3:53 mark. Matthew Cox's jumper in the lane with 2:38 to play gave the Tigers their biggest lead at 36-29.
Hensley hit two free throws and Jeffery scored on a layup after a steal as Pineville pulled to within three by end of the third.
“It just gets tougher every year,” Phipps said of winning a third straight 13th Region All “A” Classic. “It's a great thing for our seniors.”
Messer came off the bench to lead all scorers with 12 points. Good, who was named the tournament's outstanding player, had 10 and Grubb added 8 for Barbourville.
The Lions were led by Day's 10 points. Strange had nine and Rosenbalm added 8.
Day, Hensley and Strange were named to the all-tournament team. Middlesboro was represented on the team by senior guard Stuart Miller and junior guard Casey Earls.
Barbourville (16-2) is scheduled to play host to Breathitt County on Tuesday.
The Tigers will play Russellville, the Region 4 champion, in the state All “A” Classic at EKU's McBrayer Arena on Thursday at 8 p.m.
Pineville (15-4) will travels to Red Bird on Tuesday.
Paul Lunsford of the Harlan Daily Enterprise contributed to this story.