The end of the road

Published 9:14 pm Monday, February 26, 2018

As the seconds began ticking down to the end of Pineville’s season, no one could doubt the amount of effort the Lady Lions showed on Monday. Drawing the toughest team possible in the 13th Region tournament, Pineville pushed Harlan County to their limit in the first half and entered the break with a 26-24 lead.

The Lady Black Bears picked it up in the third and fourth quarter outscoring the Lady Lions 35-16 in the second half to earn the 59-42 victory, but for a brief moment in time people had the opportunity to see that Pineville could compete with the regional giant.

“We came out here Saturday and shot…and I said girls if I didn’t believe you could win we would’ve came down here and shot and had a good time and showed up Monday and said it’s been a good year. I said, but I believe in you,” said Pineville coach Jamie Mills about what he told his team before the game. “We want them to look toward South Laurel because they’re thinking if they beat South they win it. I said let’s catch them off guard. We got nothing to lose.”

The Lady Lion defense joined a rare group holding Harlan County under 60 points during the game. Only three other teams (Anderson County, Elizabethtown, and Corbin) have held the Lady Black Bears below that point.

Jill Enix capped her career at Pineville with a 22-point, 11-rebound performance. Raigan King chipped in eight points, while Whitney Caldwell ended the night with five. Seniors Mackenzie Fuson and Sarah Combs finished with four and three points, respectively.

For Harlan County, it was Blair Green that led the way with a game-high 23 points on 52 percent shooting. Lainey Cox went 5-for-9 for 10 points during the game.

One of the biggest advantages the Lady Bears had over Pineville was depth. The Harlan County bench outscored the Lady Lions’ bench 13-0 with Shelby McDaniel leading the way with 10 points.

“I looked at some of their games, and they were playing like 12 kids. In a school that size, you’ve got that many juniors and seniors (and) you can do that,” said Mills. “I’m starting two freshmen, and the ones off the bench are freshmen and sophomores and not quite ready for that type of pressure yet. You’ve just got to do what you can.”

At the end of the first quarter, Harlan County led Pinville by eight points.

An Enix basket cut the lead to 18-12 to open the second. Katelyn Johnson returned the lead to eight after a layup moments later. After trading points, back-to-back baskets from Fuson and Enix narrowed the deficit to 22-18.

Pineville took advantage of a missed free throw with an Enix layup to narrow the deficit to two, 22-20, forcing the Lady Bears to call a timeout. Pineville took the lead with under three minutes to go with a Caldwell layup that gave the Lady Lions a 23-22 lead.

A pair of free throws from Enix increased the lead to 25-22 with 1:22 remaining in the half. A free throw from Combs gave Pineville a four-point advantage with 52.5 seconds to go.

A jumper by Green at the end of the second cut the Lady Lion lead to 26-24 heading into halftime.

Harlan County began finding their rhythm in the second half holding Pineville for a combined 16 points.

Phebe McHargue opened the third with a 3-pointer that gave the Lady Bears a 27-26 lead. A layup by Cox seconds later increased the margins to 29-26.

King converted an and-1 to tie the game at 29-29 with 5:52 remaining in the frame. After swapping baskets, Harlan County went on a 12-0 run with a layup by McDaniel giving the Lady Bears a 43-31 lead with just under two minutes to go.

A layup by King ended the run and cut the lead to 10. Caldwell hit a free throw to bring the score to 43-34. Cox hit a basket at the end of the period to give Harlan County a 45-34 lead heading into the final period.

Enix opened the fourth with a basket that cut the deficit to 45-36. After that, the Lady Bears went on an 8-0 run to balloon their lead to 53-36 with just under five minutes to play.

A pair of Enix free throws and a layup from the senior cut the deficit to 13 before a Green basket gave Harlan County a 55-40 lead with 1:41 remaining.

Enix scored Pineville’s last basket of the season with just over a minute left to narrow the deficit to 55-42. The Lady Bears ended the game with a pair of McDaniel free throws and a jumper from Reanna Middleton to bring the final lead to 17.

The loss closes the high school careers for three Lady Lions: Enix, Combs and Fuson. The trio have combined for 73 wins throughout their four years at Pineville.

“This group of seniors, 73 ball games they’ve won in four year — which is an average of (about) 18 wins a season. That’s what I’ve told these other girls, learn from them. They never missed weight lifting, they never missed practice. Winning 18 games a season don’t just show because you’re good,” said Mills. “You’ve got to put all the other stuff into it. They don’t miss and they came regularly. They wanted it. They’ve had a great career.”

“Sarah (Combs), she’s been my point guard for four years. She does real well and a great job with that. She’s quick, fast, and can shoot it. She’s had a great career at Pineville. I’d do anything to have her back.

“Makenzie (Fuson), she’s started the last two years and she’s by far our most improved player. She rebounds it hard (and) she can score it. She’s had a couple 20 point games. She’s very athletic.

“Jill (Enix), she’s been our leading scorer probably for four years. She played well tonight. She stood out among all (Harlan County’s) talent too. Jill is just one of those you can count on to battle. There are games her shot might not go, but she’s still fighting. She’s still rebounding. She’s a fighter.”

Up Next

Harlan County (26-2) will square off against South Laurel (26-5) in the semifinals of the 13th Region tournament at 6 p.m. on Friday.

———

Harlan County 59, Pineville 42

PINEVILLE (18-12)

Sarah Combs 0-4 3-4 3, Jill Enix 9-17 4-6 22, Whitney Caldwell 2-7 1-4 5, Mackenzie Fuson 2-9 0-0 4, Raigan King 2-3 4-5 8, Chesney Brock 0-0 0-0 0, Virginia Hall 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-40 12-19 42.

HARLAN COUNTY (26-2)

Phebe McHargue 2-7 0-0 6, K.K. Johnson 2-4 0-2 5, Blair Green 11-21 1-4 23, Lainey Cox 5-9 0-0 10, Breann Turner 1-3 0-1 2, Shelby McDaniel 4-10 2-2 10, Morgan Napier 0-1 1-2 1, Reanna Middleton 1-3 0-0 2. Totals: 26-60 4-11 59.

Pineville 10 16 8 8 — 42

Harlan County 18 6 21 14 — 59

3-point goals: Pineville 0-5 (Enix 0-1, Caldwell 0-2, Fuson 0-2), Harlan County 3-17 (McHargue 2-5, Johnson 1-2, Middleton 0-1, Green 0-4, McDaniel 0-4). Rebounds: Pineville 30 (Enix 11, Fuson 7, Caldwell 5, King 5, Combs 2), Harlan County 30 (Cox 13, Green 5, Turner 5, Johnson 2, Napier 2, Middleton 2, McDaniel 1). Turnovers: Pineville 29, Harlan County 19. Assists: Pineville 5 (Enix 2, Combs 1, Caldwell 1, King 1), Harlan County 20 (Johnson 7, McHargue 6, Turner 3, McDaniel 3, Green 1). Fouled out: None.

Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN