By Les Dixon/ Sports Editor
PINEVILLE — The Barbourville Tigers’ reign as 13th Region Class ‘A’ champions came to an end Friday after seeing an eight-point second half lead evaporate into a 73-62 loss to Middlesboro during semifinal action of the 13th Region All ‘A’ Classic Tournament.
The Tigers held their own for the game’s first 16 minutes, but then the Yellow Jackets turned up their defensive pressure and forced Barbourville into 11 turnovers during the stretch while putting together an impressive 43-29 run.
“We knew what they were going to do,” a disappointed Barbourville coach Dinky Phipps said. “We knew they were going to begin pressing us and we actually knew when they would do it.
“I told our guys that once they started doubling us to look up because we would have someone open,” he added. “I believe we looked up maybe one time and that was it.”
Phipps was hoping his team would get the chance to play in the finals today and capture their third straight All ‘A’ regional title, but 18 turnovers and 19-of-53 shooting from the floor led to their downfall.
“We just threw the ball all over the place in the second quarter,” Phipps said. “This is really disappointing because I didn’t feel like we gave much effort out there tonight. That’s not taking anything away from Middlesboro, though. They have a very good team and Coach (Russell) Thompson does a great job with his kids.
“We just didn’t show up ready to play today,” he added. “We didn’t really shoot the ball well and we just turned the ball over too much.”
One bright spot out of the loss turned out to be the play of Devon Mills, who led all scorers with 34 while finishing the game with 11 rebounds, while Middlesboro’s Austin Poindexter led the Yellow Jackets with 23 points while teammate Donnie Foister followed with an 18-point effort.
After falling behind 11-7 in the first quarter, the Tigers rallied to take a 15-14 edge behind two three-pointers by Alexander Phipps. Barbourville’s lead grew to 31-25 at halftime after trailing 21-20 with 4:52 remaining in the first half.
Mills scored seven points down the stretch allowing the Tigers to close the half out with an 11-4 run.
A three-of-12 shooting effort combined with six turnovers allowed the Yellow Jackets to tie the game at 42 apiece heading into the fourth quarter. Middlesboro took control of the game with consecutive three-pointers to open the fourth quarter and the Yellow Jackets never looked back.
Barbourville got as close as three points (63-60) with less than two minutes remaining in the game, but couldn’t get any closer.
Middlesboro will face Pineville today in the 13th Region All ‘A’ Classic title game. The Mountain Lions advanced by defeating Jackson County in semifinal action, 66-64.
13th Region All ‘A’ Classic semifinals
Middlesboro 73, Barbourville 62
Barbourville 15 16 11 20 62
Middlesboro 14 11 17 31 73
Barbourville (62) — D. Mills 34, Strong 2, Phipps 15, Moore 2, Engle 5, Rose 4.
Middlesboro (73) — Wilson 16, Foister 18, Smith 3, Poindexter 23, Riddle 5, Davis 8.