When they made it all the way to the All “A” Classic regional finals for the first time in school history last winter, the Oneida Baptist Lady Mountaineers were clearly the 13th Region’s most pleasant surprise.
It appears the Middlesboro Lady Jackets have taken over that role in 2016. After winning only four games a year ago, the Lady Jackets find themselves at 10-6 midway through the current campaign following a 55-32 rout of Oneida Baptist on Tuesday in a first-round game at Harlan High School.
Senior guards Bailey Hensley and Erica Gambrel have led the Lady Jackets’ turnaround and took over Monday’s game against OBI early, finishing with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
“Any time you have senior guards it’s big. When you have senior guards who can handle the press it’s big for any coach,” said second-year Middlesboro coach Ron Edwards. “(Senior center) Lauren Spurlock has also helped steady us. You have three seniors who have seen everything and that helps.”
Senior guard Madison Kehler scored 16 points for the 5-8 Lady Mountaineers. Senior center Ashley Booher added nine points.
Hensley and Gambrel helped Middlesboro take control early, teaming for all of the Lady Jackets’ points as they built a 13-7 lead after one quarter.
Gambrel stayed hot in the second quarter with nine more points as Middlesboro’s lead grew to 31-8 at halftime. Gambrel had 14 points in the first half and Hensley added 10.
The second half was even as OBI won 13-11 in the third quarter and Middlesboro won 13-11 in the fourth period.
“We’re not used to being in that type of winning environment, and I wasn’t pleased with how we played the third quarter,” Edwards said. “We came out flat and quit doing things we’re supposed to do. You can’t afford to give teams confidence.”
Middlesboro will play two-time defending tournament champ Harlan on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the semifinals.
“Harlan will be a challenge for us. They are well coached,” Edwards said. “We almost have to play a perfect game to beat them.”
Pineville will play Lynn Camp in the opening semifinal on Thursday at 6 p.m. The Lady Lions advanced by edging Barbourville 48-46 on Monday. Lynn Camp defeated Williamsburg 48-43.
Pineville (48) — Jill Enix 10, Sarah Combs 17, Sophia Knuckles 4, Shayne Raftery 10, Mackenzie Fuson 7.
Barbourville (46) — Anna Daniels 14, Kaylee Smith 4, Jordan Smith 4, Abbigail Smith 4, Shelby Jones 3, Whitney Brown 17.
Lynn Camp (48) — Keisha Brock 14, Brooklyn Bryant 3, Bradi Coe 6, Mackenzie Grant 7, Ginger White 18.
Williamsburg (43) — Lillie Hall 5, Kayla Gibson 14, Lillie Abott 2, Kelsey Tye 4, Sydney Tye 15, Madison Chapman 3.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134