“He hit some big buckets for us,” said Lion coach J.D. Strange. “Our kids were working well together and tonight the shots came to James and he stepped up and carried the load.”
Senior Jared Jeffrey scored Pineville’s first six points of the game and finished with nine in the first quarter, but Red Bird’s Brandon Roberts, Derek Davis and Andrew Hacker combined to go 5-for-8 from three point range in as the Cardinals opened up a 20-16 lead.
“Jared got us going out of the gate there’s no question,” said Strange. “He’s been a big shot in the arm for us. His all-around game is invaluable to our basketball club.”
With his team trailing, Strange simply took over the game in the second quarter. He scored all of the Lions’ points as they opened the period with a 10-2 run. He hit a 3-pointer to give the Lions a 24-22 lead, then capped the run by driving in for a layup after a steal.
Baskets from Mark Fogelman and Roberts tied the game at 26, then Pineville center Dustin Day scored inside to put the Lions up 28-26. The Lions would never trail again.
Strange hit a 3-pointer, rebounded a missed 3 at the other end and dished to Will Lambdin for a basket. Strange found Lambdin again on the next Lion possession, this time for a trey.
Strange drove to the hoop on a nice feed from Lambdin, then hit a 3-pointer to give Pineville a 41-29 lead with about 2:30 to play in the first half.
He totaled 20 points in the second quarter, shooting a perfect 8-for-8 from the field including three 3-pointers.
“That’s the thing about the unselfishness of our team, they saw that he was hot tonight and they kept feeding him. Another night it might be somebody else,” coach Strange said. “Overall we’ve got different kids that can step up and tonight James made some big plays.”
Red Bird needed a late 3 from Roberts to go into the half down by 11, 47-36.
Pineville opened the third quarter with a basket by Strange and a putback by Day to take a 51-36 lead. They led by as many as 17 after a 3 from Dustin Warren and a putback by Jeffrey made the score 66-49 late in the third.
Red Bird never went away. They kept chipping away in the fourth quarter as got as close as nine on a long 3-pointer from Roberts with 5:30 left in the game.
The Lions’ lead was never in jeopardy as Strange scored ten in the third and eight more in the fourth. Jon Widener came off the bench to score the last four points of the game as Pineville held on for the 14-point win.
For the game Strange scored 41 points on 17-of-22 shooting. The Lions shot over 65-percent as a team (36-of-55). He also grabbed nine rebounds, tied with Day for the team lead and had a team-high four assists. Day scored 18 points and Jeffrey 11 to join Strange in double figures.
The Cardinals cooled off considerably from their hot start as they went 9-for-29 from long range. Overall they shot just over 40-percent (23-of-57). Robert led Red Bird with 27 points, Davis added 20 and Hacker 10.
Both teams turned the ball over eight times and Pineville held a 31-22 rebounding edge.
The Lions (16-2) advance to play at Middlesboro tonight at 7 p.m. as the All “A” continues. In other tournament games tonight, Cumberland is at Evarts, Lynn Camp is at Barbourville and Williamsburg (a 60-55 winner over OBI Monday) hosts Harlan.
Pineville defeated Middlesboro earlier this season 65-54 at home. The Jackets won the last meeting at MHS 72-66 last season. Strange said those results will have little bearing on tonight’s contest.
“It will just be which team can come out and execute the best and produce the most and get the job done,” he said. “I consider Middlesboro a very good basketball team — better than good. They’ve got kids that can play and we’ve got our hands full. There’s no question we’re going to have to work extremely hard to have a chance to be successful.”
Red Bird (8-7) returns to action Friday at Piarst School.
— — —
Red Bird 20 16 18 16 — 70
Pineville 16 31 21 16 — 84
RED BIRD (70): Brandon Roberts 27, Derek Davis 20, Andrew Hacker 10, Josh Sizemore 8, Mark Fogleman 5, Donavan Nantz 0, Jon North 0.
PINEVILLE (84): James David Strange 41, Dustin Day 18, Jared Jeffrey 11, Will Lambdin 7, Jon Widener 4, Dustin Warren 3, Tyler Tuttle 0, Mike Cunningham 0.