Lady Jackets win Cumberland River All-A conference championship

Published 2:08 pm Friday, October 4, 2019

The Middlesboro Lady Jacket’s seventh and eighth grade basketball team won the Cumberland River All-A conference championship on Thursday night after defeating the Harlan Lady Dragons 41-26 in Middlesboro.

The Lady Jackets were led by Emrey Glover with 23 points, two rebounds, three assists and four steals. She was followed by Brynlee Foster with 12 points, six rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks. Keevie Betts added four points, four rebounds and a steal. Laya Brown finished with two points and eight rebounds.

“It feels great to win,” said Middlesboro coach Bethany Evans. “I think the last time we won was three years ago, so we were due. It was time. We worked very hard all year long starting in May and spanning the length of the summer and a lot of the girls play all year long. They definitely earned it. They worked very hard all year, and I’m very proud of them.”

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“I think we did a good job of coming out fast in this game and getting a sizeable lead early,” said Evans. “We play better when we run the floor and play fast. Outlet passes, transition buckets and fast pace are our strengths, and I think we did a great job of that during this game. We played our style of basketball and were able to control the tempo of the game and hold on for the win.”

A trio of three-point baskets from the Lady Jackets in the first quarter allowed them to hold a 15-10 advantage over Harlan at the end of the first quarter. Foster connected on a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the Middlesboro lead to 9-4 before another three from Glover gave Middlesboro a 12-6 advantage later in the quarter. Timely free throws from Betts allowed the Lady Jackets to hold on to their five-point cushion at the end of the opening frame.

Completely dictating the pace in the second half with strong defense, Middlesboro was able to limit Harlan to only four points throughout the duration of the second quarter. Betts, Glover and Foster swarmed the Harlan ball handlers and were able to come up with multiple steals each that led to transition buckets for the Lady Jackets. Outscoring Harlan 16-4 in the second quarter, Middlesboro took a 31-14 lead into the locker room at the half.

Both team’s offenses seemed to slow down in the second half, with Middlesboro scoring only 10 points in the final two quarters of play. Limiting Harlan to only 12 more points, Middlesboro had built enough of a cushion in the first half to hold on to their lead and post a 15-point victory over Harlan to secure the Cumberland River All-A conference championship.

With tears in her eyes, coach Evans recounts having spent years coaching most of her team. “I am definitely going to miss these girls. I’ve been with those girls for four or five years — I’ve watched them grow up,” she said. “They feel like mine. You know, we go year-round for four or five years and that’s a lot of time. I’ve watched them grow up in to some great young women, and I’m very very proud of them.”

Although the Lady Jackets won the conference title, this may not be the end of the line this season. “I told the girls earlier this year that if we won over 20 games and won our conference championship, that we would think about going to the state tournament,” said Evans. “So, we are going to talk about that a little bit and we may take a shot at state this year.”