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End of the line

A furious comeback in the final seconds by the Warren County High School girls basketball team wasn’t enough to keep its season alive.
The Lady Pioneers made a valiant effort to extend their season against the Cumberland County Lady Jets, but a charge call on a game-tying basket proved to be the difference as Warren County fell 55-51 in the District 6-AAA tournament play-in game.
Warren County (13-18) nearly completed an epic comeback when the team cut the Cumberland County lead to  53-51 in the waning seconds. The Lady Pioneers thought they tied the game, but Jessie Newby’s potential game-tying layup was waved off as the junior post, who scored a career-best 17 points, was called for a charge on the play.
The call took all the energy out of the Lady Pioneers, who trailed by seven with 42 seconds to play but would not let their season end without a fight.
Camerie Martin’s free throw made it a six-point game and gave Warren County time to set up its press defense. The Lady Pioneers forced a turnover when Newby jumped in front of a pass and hit Bri Melton for a driving layup.
Down 53-49, Warren County forced another quick turnover that set up another scoring opportunity. After Melton’s steal, Martin ended up with the ball and attacked the basket. The junior point guard was fouled as she earned another trip to the line with a chance to make it a one-possession game.
Martin buried both free throws with 27 seconds left, capping a 5-0 run by the Lady Pioneers in the span of 15 seconds to make it 53-51.
Warren County was forced to foul on the ensuing possession as Cumberland County finally broke the press, but the Lady Jets couldn’t seal the game at the charity stripe. For the third straight time, Cumberland County had a player miss the front end of a one-and-one and the Lady Pioneers controlled the rebound.
Advancing the ball quickly upcourt, senior Rachel Nokes saw Newby streaking toward the basket with a chance to tie the game. Newby collided with a Cumberland County defender just as she released a layup that rolled in. Before the Lady Pioneers could celebrate, the baseline referee waved off the basket to call a charge on the junior.
Cumberland County was finally able to ice the game with two late free throws as a late 3-pointer hoisted by Martin missed the mark and would not have made a difference in the final.
Thursday’s play-in game was the rubber match between the Lady Pioneers and Lady Jets as the teams split the regular season series. The play-in game carried with it big stakes as the winner would advance to the semifinals and punch a ticket to the regional tournament while the loser knew it would be a season-ending loss.
Warren County started off well against the Lady Jets, who had beaten the Lady Pioneers by 21 nine days prior and were riding high after upsetting the top-seeded Cookeville Lady Cavaliers on the final night of the regular season.
Behind five points from Newby and four points from Melton, the Lady Pioneers were able to survive an early onslaught by the Lady Jets led by shooting guard Sloane Van Winkle. Van Winkle sank three of her team’s four 3-pointers in the first quarter to power her team to a 17-13 lead.
Newby would continue to pace the Lady Pioneer offense as her strength and skill couldn’t be matched by the Lady Jets. The junior post gave Warren County a 20-19 lead midway through the second quarter when her jumper set up by a pass from Martin touched every part of the rim before falling through.
The Lady Jets would rally back by scoring the final six points of the first half to lead 28-24 at halftime.
Cumberland County maintained its lead for most of the third quarter before Brittany Myers went on a 5-0 run on her own. The sophomore guard buried a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 34-32 with 1:39 left in the period, then stole a pass and raced in for a game-tying layup.
Instead of holding the momentum going into the final quarter, the Lady Jets swung the game with 3-pointers from Van Winkle and Alli Hyder in the final 30 seconds to build a 40-34 advantage.
Van Winkle capped a 7-1 run by the Lady Jets to start the fourth quarter with her sixth 3-pointer as coach Baird took a time-out with his team trailing 47-35.
Newby helped the Lady Pioneers mount a rally by scoring six points during a spurt, which included a senior connection when Megan Dishman found Nokes for a layup to cut the lead to 50-43.
Van Winkle had the answer again though as she drilled another 3-pointer, giving her a game-high 21 points, to make it a 10-point game.
The ninth Lady Jet 3-pointer looked to be the clincher, but the Lady Pioneers made one final charge. A late rally fell short though as Warren County was on the wrong end of a crucial call.
Melton finished with 10 points in the season finale, while Myers and Dishman added eight points each. Martin scored six points and Nokes had two in her final game as a Lady Pioneer.
The Lady Pioneers, who were predicted to finish last in the district before the season, saw their two-year streak of regional bids stopped with the loss.


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