The Eminence Warriors opened the Pine Mountain Classic on Friday against Middlesboro and fell to the Yellowjackets 75-66.
After getting off to a slow start that saw them fall behind 13-7 after one period, the Warriors fought back to within two points at 30-28 going into halftime by outscoring Middlesboro 21-17 in the second period.
The Warriors took the lead in the third period after falling behind by seven points. After getting up by four at 40-36 the Yellowjackets went on run to regain the lead and then used good free throw shooting to pull away for the nine-point victory.
“We played well against Middlesboro,” Coach Chris Nethery said. “They played a lot of zone and 1-3-1 half-court trap and Jake McKinley and Trevor Payton handled it well by knocking down shots making good passes.They got to the line a lot more and that was essentially the story of the game.”
Middlesboro hit 17 of 29 free throws for the game while the Warriors hit all four of their shots from the charity stripe.
The Warriors hit six 3-pointers in the game to none for Middlesboro, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the free throw discrepancy.
The Warriors were led by Payton with 18 points and McKinley with 16 points, while leading scorer Jalen Dixie managed 14 points despite being ill.
“Jalen was sick for the first two games of the tournament and really wasn’t himself,” Nethery said. “He had to ask out of the game a lot because he had no energy.
“After we got up four points, everything kind of went against us. They hit a lot of free throws down the stretch.”
Pineville 65 EHS 47
The Warriors again faltered late against the host Mountain Lions as they were outscored 23-4 in the final period.
“We played well again in this game,” Nethery said. “We were down nine at halftime but came back and took the lead. We were up one at the end of the third quarter and had the lead early in the fourth.
“Cornelius Sanford went down with a leg injury and Jalen was still struggling with illness and the game got away from us as we had to play a lot of younger guys.”
The Warriors were done in by good free throw shooting by the home team who scored most of their points from the line in the final period. Pineville junior Donald Collett hit 22 of 23 free throws in the game and took most of those free tries in the final period. He finished with 35 points for the game.
Overall the Mountain Lions hit 31 of 39 free throws for the game while the Warriors were just three of nine from the charity stripe.
Trevor Payton again led the way for the Warriors with 14 points while Dixie chipped in eleven. Shelby Armstrong and Sanford had seven points apiece.
Rockcastle County 81 EHS 63
The Warriors played the Rockets for the second time in a week and came out on the losing end again.
“We played well to open the game and were down two when they hit a 3-pointer late in the period to go up five heading into the second period,” Nethery said. “They started running the floor better in the second period and got a lot of open looks against our zone and the game kind of got away from us.”
The Warriors were outscored 25-11 in the second period to go into the locker room down 42-23.
“Jalen felt better in this game and played real well, especially in the third quarter,” Nethery said. “We cut it to eleven points in the third but they pushed it out from there.
“We played some younger guys and they were bigger and stronger and took advantage of that. Cornelius tried to go but couldn’t because of the injury he sustained against Pineville.
“Rockcastle has a nice team,” Nethery said. “They played really well and very hard. They went undefeated in the tournament.”
Nethery took some positives away from the tournament despite going 0-3.
“Trevor and Jake really played well in the first two games and we got a nice contribution in the tournament from freshman Cameron Jones who had to play a lot more minutes than he has been,” Nethery said. “Cameron ran the floor well and played good defense and knocked down a few shots.
“It was a good learning experience. You go down there and face adversity. The lesson you take away is that you have got to play hard through the adversity.”