If there were any lingering doubts about the Lady Pioneers and their legit status as a top team in Middle Tennessee, they can be fully dispelled now. Warren County picked up its first signature win of the season Tuesday at Stewarts Creek.
The Lady Pioneers rallied from a five-point deficit in the final 90 seconds to hand the Redhawks their first loss of the year. Warren County scored nine straight points down the stretch to beat Stewarts Creek 54-50, improving its record to 5-3 in the process.
Kyra Perkins had the go-ahead bucket with 32 seconds left, while Shelby Smartt and Brienne Kelsey also had huge moments in the final minute as Warren County snapped Stewarts Creek’s seven-game winning streak. It was a seminal moment for the Lady Pioneers, who came into the season with big-time expectations and looked every bit like a veteran laden team while rallying against the Redhawks.
“Any time you can go on the road and come out with a win, it’s a good night,” said coach Anthony Lippe. “They are well coached and have some really good players. I thought our girls fought through some adversity and showed a lot of maturity. I was very proud of them.”
Warren County trailed 50-45 after a Redhawk 3-pointer with 1:45 to go, then matters got worse when the Lady Pioneers had a turnover that gave Stewarts Creek a potential 2-on-1 attack. Savannah Winfree and Mia Hobbs showed great hustle on the play, not only breaking up the layup but also forcing the ball out on the Redhawks to get back possession.
On the ensuing play, Perkins found Smartt wide open on a backcut for a layup with 1:03 to play, narrowing the gap to 50-47. Coach Lippe took an immediate timeout in hopes of making one last push. The Lady Pioneers got a big assist from Stewarts Creek moments later.
Perkins swallowed up a shot in the paint by the Redhawks, completely stuffing one of the big posts for the home team. As Perkins gained control of the ball, a reach-in foul was called on Stewarts Creek. During a protest of the call, Stewarts Creek was whistled for a costly technical foul with 48.3 seconds left.
Kelsey nailed both the free throws, getting the Lady Pioneers within one as the team got the ball back after the technical. Warren County ultimately ended up with the ball under its own basket after a timeout and Perkins got her number called in the clutch.
The senior made a quick cut into the lane and took the pass. Between two defenders, she tried to muscle up a shot but had it poked away. On the second effort, Perkins was able to get the ball over the top of two defenders and watched as it got a friendly bounce to push the Lady Pioneers up 51-50.
Stewarts Creek had its chance to swing back in the lead with less than 20 seconds left, but a contested layup in the paint wouldn’t fall. In the scramble for the rebound, Perkins was able to knock the ball loose and Smartt gained control before being fouled with :13 left.
Smartt was calm in the clutch, hitting both shots from the charity stripe to make it 53-50. Stewarts Creek got one last heave to tie in the final ticks, but it was long and Kelsey corralled the rebound and added one last free throw with 2.1 seconds left to ice the game.
Warren County will try to make it three wins in a row this Saturday at Ooltewah. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. The Lady Pioneers return home next Friday, Dec. 16 against Cookeville.