PINEVILLE — Harlan was coming off a pair of tough home losses — by one point to Harlan County and in overtime to Barbourville — but on Tuesday it was the Green Dragons making the key plays late. They came back from 12 down in the first half, didn’t take a lead until the fourth quarter and pulled away by hitting ten straight free throws over the final 1:31 for a 63-53 win at Pineville.
“It’s the little things that you have to do to win. We’re starting to get better at those things. Hopefully down the stretch we can turn this into a good thing,” Harlan coach David Parks said. “We try to go by the mantra ‘We is greater than me.’ It’s a team deal, it’s not about anybody individually. I’m very proud of these kids, we played as a team in the second half.”
The Mountain Lions jumped out early as Conner Ford scored the first four points of the game, John Robbins added a putback and Scotty Hoskins hit a pair of 3-pointers for a 12-6 lead. Cody Collett tacked on five points as Pineville was up 18-13 after one quarter.
A 9-2 run to start the second period extended the lead to 27-15. Isaac Longworth scored five during the spurt and Ford put in four, including a little jumper that made it a 12-point game with 5:22 to play in the half.
“Other than not winning the game, I thought we had some bright spots for a lot of our kids. The effort was there and enthusiasm, which is good this time of year,” Pineville coach J.D. Strange said. “We’ve gone through a rough stretch, this was our fifth game in six days. We found out some things about our ball club and we’ll use what we’ve learned in practice to try and get better.”
Harlan didn’t make their first field goal of the second period until Aaron Simpson drove the lane for a basket at the 3:03 mark that ignited an 8-0 run. It was capped when Simpson drew the defense on a baseline drive and dished to Tyler Miller for a dunk that made the score 28-25.
Longworth’s late layup sent the Lions into the break up 30-25.
A trey and two free throws from Simpson got the Dragons within two early in the third quarter, but Pineville got two 3-pointers from Collett and one each from Robbins and Hoskins to push the lead back out to 46-37 with 2:40 to play in the period.
Harlan scored the next seven points to get back in the game and it was 48-46 after three.
Miller scored inside to tie the game on the opening possession of the fourth quarter and a Dupar layup with 7:10 to play gave the Dragons their first lead of the night.
A Robbins putback tied it at 50 before Simpson scored at the 6:00 mark to give Harlan the lead for good.
The score remained 52-50 for a long stretch as the teams exchanged turnovers and misses. A charging call wiped out a tying basket by Collett with 3:50 to play.
Still up by two after Miller and Ford traded single free throws, the Dragons were content to run 1:20 off the clock before Miller was fouled again with 1:31 to go. He hit both ends of the bonus to push the Harlan lead to four. From there the Lions would miss four 3-pointers — after making eight 3s in the first three quarters, Pineville couldn’t connect from long range in the fourth.
Harlan got six free throws from Drew Parks and two from Hogue to put the game away.
“We try to keep the ball in Drew’s hands toward the end of the game — he’s the best free throw shooter we’ve got, him and Simpson. As long as they’re on the line I feel comfortable that we’re going to get something out of it,” Coach Parks added. “Aaron Simpson showed a great deal of leadership tonight and Tyler Miller was a beast in there. When those two kids play that way and we get anything from our guards we’re in pretty good shape.”
Simpson led the Dragons with 19 points while Miller finished with 15, Hogue 11 and Parks 10.
It was a balanced scoring game for the Lions as Collett led the way with 12 points, Ford and Hoskins both finished with 11, Longworth added nine and Robbins eight.
Harlan (14-7) will play a pivotal role in how the seeding for the 52nd District Tournament shakes out. The Dragons host Middlesboro on Thursday, play at Bell County on Friday and visit Middlesboro on Saturday.
— — —
Harlan 13 12 21 17 — 63
Pineville 18 12 18 5 — 53
HARLAN (63) — Aaron Simpson 19, Caleb Hogue 11, Tyler Miller 15, Drew Parks 10, Noah Busroe 0, Jordan Dupar 6, Leighton Piper 2, Manny Davis 0
PINEVILLE (53) — Conner Ford 11, Scotty Hoskins 11, John Robbins 8, Cody Collett 12, Isaac Longworth 9, Dalton Ledbetter 2, Tucker Woolum 0, Will Adams 0.