Jackets suffer two hard-fought losses in the Hyden Citizens Bank Classic

Published 7:03 pm Friday, December 29, 2023

By John Henson, Contributing Writer

HYDEN — In a 13-point loss at Harlan a week ago, Middlesboro coach John Wheat vowed his team was going to work to upgrade its defense.

The Yellow Jackets showed improvement the next week in the Hyden Citizens Bank Classic, giving up 50 points to both Johnson Central and Middlesboro. The problem was they found a new problem on the offensive side by scoring only 46 points in two hard-fought losses.

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“Our offense has dropped off from teams playing us so much more zone, but also like I mentioned at Harlan that we were going to concentrate more on our defense and rebounding. I did mention tonight to the guys though we’ve got to start putting the ball in the basket at a higher rate,” Middlesboro coach John Wheat said. “This week, in my eyes, was successful from the standpoint of our defense becoming stronger and more communication on the floor by the guys.

I do realize though the bottom line are the wins and losses, and I really feel we are about to start getting Ws on a consistent basis.”

Jesse Hoskins scored 11 points and Isaiah Vanscoy each scored 10 to lead Leslie in the 50-46 win Friday.

Senior guard Cayden Gribsby led the 4-4 Jackets with 16 points.

The game was close throughout. Grigsby hit two 3-pointers as Middlesboro took a 14-12 lead after one period. Kaden Bell came off the bench to score seven points in the second quarter as the Eagles went on top 21-19. Leslie still led by two, at 39-37, after three quarters.

Vanscoy’s 3 pushed the Leslie lead to six with 3:23 to play, but a 3 by Grigsby cut the lead in half, then Bryce Bowling scored inside to cut the deficit to 47-46 with 23 seconds to play. Vanscoy’s two free throws pushed the lead to three with 18.6 seconds left, and the Jackets missed on a 3 in the closing seconds before Dillion Smith hit one of two at the line with 1.5 seconds remaining to seal the win.

Middlesboro suffered a 50-46 loss to Johnson Central on Wednesday. Jerimah Beck led the Jackets with 23 points.

“This was the most complete game that we’ve played from the standpoint of defense and rebounding. We were able to keep Johnson Central off balance enough to have chances to win, but give coach (Tommy) McKenzie credit. There’s a reason that his teams are always top in the 15th Region,” Wheat said. “Once his guys get into shape from football, watch out. They will be making noise in their region. I was super pleased with our whole teams effort. Myself and our coaching staff have been challenging our guys since our disappointment at Harlan to be more physically and mentally tougher, and it’s starting to show. I’m excited about improvement and we are going to strive to get better every day.”

The Jackets return to action Wednesday against Somerset in the Chain Rock Classic at Pineville.


Leslie County (50) — Jayden Hacker 6, Dillion Smith 5, Jesse Hoskins 11, Tye Meyers 8, Isaiah Vanscoy 10, Jesse Osborne 3, Kaden Bell 7.

Middlesboro (46) — Jerimah Beck 8, Bryce Bowling 6, Cayden Grigsby 16, Trey King 9, Peyton Turner 4, Jack Smith 3.

Middlesboro       4        8             6

Leslie County           2        8    1         0


Johnson Central (50) — Sone 21, Montgomery 5, Shepard 10, Grimm 10, Rose 2, Meeks 2.

Middlesboro (46) — Bryce Bowling 7, Brayden Barnard 4, Cayden Grigsby 7, Jerimah Beck 23, Trey King 4, Joseph Killion 1.

Johnson Central   1    4    5    0         0

Middlesboro           2        7         6