APPALACHIA — While Norton lays a strong claim to being the capital of girls basketball in the Lonesome Pine District this season, competitive fires are burning brightly elsewhere in the league.
Samantha Balthis scored 28 points to lead Pound in a 58-51 win over Powell Valley in the Alpha Natural Resources Coal Classic at Appalachia on Tuesday night.
“We’ve worked really hard and I’m really proud of the team. We’ve practiced really hard and it’s finally starting to pay off,” said Balthis, who went a rock-steady 13-for-13 at the free throw line.
The Lady Vikings (4-3) barely clung to the lead when they lost Tasha Trent to her fifth foul with 3:22 remaining in the game. She had grabbed 11 rebounds.
Wily Lady Wildcats coach Wayne Leftwich said he’d hoped to steer the excellently athletic Trent into foul trouble. Her signature aggressive style of play helped seal the deal.
Balthis, who collected three field goals inside the arc and three beyond it, gave Pound the 45-44 lead with her layup at the 3:12 mark. The little junior point guard went into take-charge mode for the remainder, taking care of the basketball while the Lady Wildcats kept pressure up front on the Lady Vikings.
“We have so much confidence in her and she has so much confidence in herself. And it’s not cocky, either. It’s just confidence,” Leftwich said. “When we get a lead with two or three minutes left to go, you’re going to have to come and get us.”
Jenna Stallard added 12 points for Pound (6-3).
Lauren Schoolcraft led Powell Valley with 22 points, also rejecting five Lady Wildcats shots. Cassie Chadwell scored 15 while Brittany Bishop scored 10 points and distributed five assists.
“I think the biggest thing that hurt us today is that we couldn’t get in sync. We couldn’t get in rhythm,” said Lady Vikings coach Amanda Breeding. “We just didn’t play very well together.”
In Coal Classic boys action, Rye Cove lifted its holiday spirits with a 69-53 win over Thomas Walker that gave the embattled War Eagles their first victory of the season.
Devon Wells scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Rye Cove (1-8). Ryan Petelle scored 13 points while distributing six assists and grabbing eight rebounds. Chase Rollins fired up 10 points.
“It’s great to get a win. We’re fighting a losing bug around here and trying to get their mentality changed. To get the kids in a mind-set where we go out on a nightly basis and compete,” said War Eagles coach Michael Paul Berry, who took over the head post after Justin Seaver resigned earlier this month.
Ryan Scott scored 23 points to pace the Pioneers (1-6) while David Overton added 10.
In Tuesday’s boys nightcap, Holden Burke scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter as Coeburn edged Harlan 47-46. Andrew Pate also had 13 points for Coeburn (4-3) while Phillip Riner added 11.
The Blue Knights face Appalachia in tonight’s boys championship game. That showdown will be preceded by a 7 p.m. girls championship clash between J.I. Burton and J.J. Kelly.
Phillip Ely scored 20 points for Harlan (3-6), accounting for the Kentucky team’s only bucket and two free throws of the fourth quarter.
In other Tuesday games, Shasta Edwards scored 10 points as Rye Cove’s girls beat Appalachia 43-35, and Haylee Wyrick fired up 19 to lead the Coeburn girls in a 43-34 victory over St. Paul.