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On the line

Another year, another play-in game for the Lady Pioneers.
The Warren County High School girls basketball team will go into the District 6-AAA tournament for the fourth straight year knowing its season is on the line when the ball goes into the air to start the play-in game.
Coach Erick Baird and his Lady Pioneer team will battle the Cumberland County Lady Jets tomorrow night at White County High School as the winner will advance to the semifinals of the district tournament, assuring a spot in the regional tournament, while the loser will go home for a nine-month basketball break.
The play-in game, which will begin at 6 p.m. tomorrow as all tournament games will be played in White County, was one coach Baird was hoping to avoid for the first time since taking over the Lady Pioneer program before the 2009-10 season.
As the first game of the District 6-AAA tournament, the play-in game has the most at stake for the participating teams as a regional berth hangs in the balance. The top three teams are guaranteed three more games in their season, but  coach Baird knows the play-in game is a possible one-and-done scenario.
“We’ve been here the last three years and have won two,” said Baird. “It’s a game you’d rather avoid, because it means you have to win three straight games with little rest to take home the tournament title.”
“We have some experience with this kind of game and hopefully it plays to our advantage,” said Baird.
In the first two years District 6-AAA, as currently constructed, held its postseason tournament, the higher seed in the play-in game got homecourt advantage. Both years, it was the Lady Pioneers playing host to the Lady Jets. Warren County lost in 2010, but won in 2011 to earn its first regional tournament appearance in over a decade.
Last year, district officials decided to hold all its tournament games at one venue. Playing in Cumberland County, the Lady Pioneers defeated Cookeville to punch its ticket to the regional tournament in back-to-back seasons.
To make it to the regional tournament for a third straight year, Warren County will have to take down a Lady Jet squad playing its best basketball of the season.
The Lady Jets routed Warren County 64-43 last Tuesday, then finished their regular season by upsetting the Cookeville Lady Cavaliers 65-61 Monday night at Cookeville.
The lone District 6-AAA win for the Lady Pioneers this season was a 34-28 victory over Cumberland County at home Jan. 18, but since Warren County has lost its last six games.
Coach Baird is hopeful his team can make the necessary adjustments to be ready for the Lady Jets tomorrow night and end its longest losing streak in the last three years.
“Cumberland County is a hot team right now, but hopefully we can cool them down,” said Baird. “They are a promising squad that will contend in the future.”
With a win, Warren County would advance to the semifinals Saturday to face the No. 1 seed Cookeville Lady Cavaliers. Tip-off Saturday would be at 6 p.m.

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