By Les Dixon
HARLAN COUNTY – Corbin coach Tony Pietrowski labeled Middlesboro as a “scary team” coming into the Redhounds’ first round matchup of the 13th Region Tournament on Monday.
During the first quarter, the Yellow Jackets were downright scary, falling behind 24-8, while connecting on only two-of-18 shot attempts, but their play during the final three quarters might have been what Pietrowski was talking about.
Despite facing an 18-point deficit, Russell Thompson’s squad never flinched and outscored Corbin 78-56 during the game’s final 24 minutes while earning a trip to the semifinals by defeating the stunned Redhounds, 86-80.
“Coming in, I thought this was a tremendously hard draw for us,” Pietrowski said. “We knew we would get their best tonight. We came out to a big lead and probably, in hindsight, was one of things that hurt us. I thought we let our guard down about in the beginning of the second quarter.
“We let then start getting to the rim and let them start rebounding,” he added. “Those were two things we really felt like we had to take from them and they just fed off of it.”
Corbin jumped out on Middlesboro early thanks to 10-of-13 shooting from the floor. The Redhounds (24-7) opened the game with two straight pointers by Hunter Grubb and Trevor Hill to take a quick 6-0 edge.
The Yellow Jackets cut their deficit to 8-5 with 5:13 remaining in the opening quarter, but then Corbin went on a 16-3 run to close out the quarter while extending its lead to 24-8. Kevin Goins added a three-pointer during the stretch while Robbie Igo added four points. Kaleb Maguet’s three-pointer to end the period gave his team a 16-point edge.
Middlesboro (16-13) was its own worst enemy in the quarter, misfiring on 12 straight shot attempts during one stretch before finishing the quarter two-of-18 from the floor.
The Yellow Jackets heated up in the second frame behind the play of Donnie Foister and Austin Poindexter. Middlesboro’s defensive pressure forced the Redhounds into five turnovers, as the Yellow Jackets managed to outscore Corbin 20-11 during the quarter to cut their deficit to 35-28 at halftime.
Middlesboro closed the half with an 8-3 run, as the Redhounds struggled shooting from the floor (four-of-15) while finishing the half at 50 percent (14-of-28). The Yellow Jackets connected on eight-of-16 shot attempts during the period and 10-of-34 for the half.
The tide began to turn in the third quarter.
Pietrowski’s squad opened the second half missing its first six shots, and Middlesboro took advantage, as Foister scored seven straight points, including hitting a three-pointer with 4:11 remaining in the period to tie the game at 41 apiece.
The Yellow Jackets closed out the quarter with a 16-8 run to take a 57-49 advantage into the fourth quarter. Middlesboro hit nine-of-19 shot attempts during the period while Corbin misfired on six-of-17 attempts.
The Redhounds fell behind as much as nine points (60-51 with 7:01 remaining) before they made their comeback attempt. Back-to-back three-pointers by Hunter Grubb and Kevin Goins cut Corbin’s deficit to 60-57 with 6:07 left. Pietrowski’s squad managed to tie the game at 73 apiece (2:26 left) and 75 apiece (1:39 mark) before seeing Middlesboro put the game away with 7-0 run in less than a minute span, giving the Yellow Jackets an 82-75 edge.
Corbin tried to put together another rally, but could only get as close as four points, as Middlesboro knocked down its free throws to wrap up the win.
“Obviously the difference in the second half, our inability to get any kind of shut down on their penetration and we they did miss, we didn’t rebound well,” Pietrowski said. “You’re not going to beat many teams giving up 86 (points).
“I feel bad for my kids because they’ll look back on this and feel like they disappointed our fan base or didn’t accomplish the things they could have,” he added. “Coming into this year we were ranked really low in the region and really no expectations for us and these kids battled throughout the year. When we get some time to heal and rest, I think we’ll look back and feel good about the success we had.”
13Th Region Boys Tournament At Harlan County High School
Middlesboro 86, Corbin 80
Middlesboro 8 20 29 29 86
Corbin 24 11 14 31 80
Middlesboro (86) – Wilson 12, Foister 20, Smith 3, Riddle 18, Mike 11, Davis 22.
Corbin (80) – Farley 9, Maguet 12, Hill 18, Grubb 12, igo 11, Goins 16, Shelton 2.