BARBOURVILLE —At about the same time Middlesboro was taking control of their game against Barbourville, the Pineville Mountain Lions were struggling to fend off Jackson County in their All “A” semifinal.
The Lions were able to hit 14 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter as they held on for a 66-64 win.
It was the second straight game the Lions were outstanding from the charity stripe in crunch time and they needed just about every single one of them as the Generals nearly erased a 12-point deficit over the final seven minutes.
“They started fouling us and we had a couple of turnovers, but fortunately we had a big enough lead to overcome that,” said Pineville coach J.D. Strange. “They hit a shot to cut it to two with less than 20 seconds to go, but we managed to hit our free throws. I give our kids a lot of credit, even though we made some turnovers that hurt us our free throws bailed us out.”
Senior forward Byron David Asher (18) and senior center John Simpson (17) combined for 35 points to lead the Lions. Jacob Skinner came off the bench to score eight of his ten points in the second half and Seth Jeffrey hit all eight of his free throws in the fourth quarter to finish with ten points as well.
Jackson County was led by Jacob Hammonds with 16 points while Zach Lawson added 12 and Will Neeley 12 off the bench. Center Steven Wagers dealt with foul trouble most of the night, but scored seven of his nine points during the General’s fourth-quarter rally.
Asher scored eight in the first quarter and Simpson added seven as the Lions built a 15-11 lead after one. At halftime Pineville was up 23-20.
The pace picked up quickly in the second half with Pineville turning up their defensive pressure.
“We came out early in the third quarter, had two or three steals and ran it up to nine-point lead pretty quick,” Strange said.
Jared Philpot scored a pair of baskets in the third quarter, Simpson put in six points and the Lions also got baskets two baskets from Skinner and one each from Asher, Cody Collett and Seth Jeffrey as they outscored Jackson 21-14 to take a 44-34 lead into the fourth.
After leading by as many as 12 early in the fourth, Pineville was maintaining a comfortable lead until about the midway point of the fourth quarter. Jackson County got eight points each from Hammonds and Neeley in the period and seven each from Wagers and Lawson as the mounted a furious comeback that came just short.
For Pineville, it was their six win in seven games. After struggling with a couple of injuries and some inconsistent play early in the season the Lions appear to be hitting their stride.
“I thought our kids gave tremendous effort, a whole lot of hustle,” Strange said. “You can see a good basketball pulling hard together for a purpose.”
Jackson County (12-6) hosts Buckhorn on Monday.
Pineville (12-6) advances to play Middlesboro in the 13th Region All “A” championship game. The game will be played Sunday at 2 p.m. at Bell County.
Middlesboro won the previous meeting between the teams 70-62 back on Dec. 14 at MHS. Strange said he’s looking forward to the game.
“We’ll see, we’ve played them once and coach Thompson has a good mixture of guards and inside play,” he said. “It ought to be a heck of a match-up and I’m looking forward to a heck of a basketball game.”
— — —
Pineville……15…8…21…22 — 66
Jackson Co..11…9…14…30 — 64
PINEVILLE (66): Byron David Asher 18, John Simpson 17, Seth Jeffrey 10, Jacob Skinner 10, Jared Philpot 6, Cody Collett 5, Isaac Longworth 0, Connor Ford 0, Dalton Ledbetter 0.
JACKSON COUNTY (64): Jacob Hammonds 16, Zach Lawson 12, Will Neeley 12, Steven Wagers 9, Jordan Fox 8, Austin Whitehead 5 Seth Bingham 2, D.J. Stone 0, Cody Cunigan 0.