Four 13th Region girls basketball teams enter tournament play with 20 wins.
Three are no surprise as Harlan, North Laurel and Harlan County entered the year as regional favorites and did nothing during the season to change that view.
The fourth is not so obvious.
Pineville improved its record to 20-7 on Saturday afternoon with a 54 25 blowout of visiting Red Bird, capping one of the region’s biggest turnarounds after a 2015 season that ended with a record of 10-15.
“We’re proud of our season. It’s a big turnaround from last year,” said Pineville coach Jamie Mills. “We were real young and inexperienced last year in our backcourt. They’ve had a year to grow up and get tougher. They’ve done better getting the ball up the floor, and I think that’s one of our major improvements since last year.”
Senior forward Sophia Knuckles led the Lady Lions in her final home game with 11 points. Autumn Short and Morgan Thompson, both juniors, added 10 points each.
Sophomore center Bethan Austin scored 16 poins and sophomore guard Kara Wilson added nine to account for all the points scored by the 1-22 Lady Cardinals.
An Austin free throw was the only point of the first quarter for Red Bird as Pineville turned numerous steals into points to build a 25-1 lead after one period.
Knuckles had two baskets and a 3-pointer to start a 20-0 run to close the quarter after Austin’s free throw made the score 5-1 only a minute into the game. Sophomore point guard Sarah Combs hit a 3-pointer, then closed the quarter with a steal and layup.
“I wanted to do something positive things early, and then let some of the younger kids play,” Mills said. “We were able to get our starters out early.”
Thompson started the second quarter with two baskets before Wilson’s outback gave Red Bird its first field goal with 5:40 left in the first half. Austin had two baskets inside as the Lady Cards cut the deficit to 31-7. Anna Howard, Thompson and Mackenzie Fuson scored for Pineville late in the quarter as the lead was 38-15 at halftime. Wilson had three baskets in the quarter and Austin added two to lead Red Bird.
Jill Enix, Short, Combs and Howard hit shots in an 11-1 run to open the third quarter that started a running clock with 3:42 left in the period. Wilson scored for Red Bird and Katrina Collett hit two free throws for Pineville as the Lady Lions led 51-16 at the end of the quarter.
Red Bird outscored Pineville 9-3 in the fourth quarter as Austin scored all of Red Bird’s points in the period, including the last seven.
Pineville will play Lynn Camp on Monday in the 51st District Tournament at Lynn Camp.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134