Being the host school of the Sun Drop Romp Christmas tournament, the Warren County High School girls basketball team has wanted to keep the championship trophy in town, but the task has been too difficult thus far.
The Lady Pioneers fell in the finals in 2010 and lost in the semifinals last season. The downward trend continued Thursday as Warren County dropped the play-in game to the Rhea County Lady Eagles 43-28.
With more teams in the tournament field each season, the competition for the championship has been tougher.
Coach Erick Baird knew his team would need four wins over three days to take the title, but the path was blocked before Warren County could get started.
Rhea County, which improved to 10-1 with the win, put the clamps on the Lady Pioneers to move into the quarterfinals.
Warren County (7-7) had its lowest scoring outing of the season, falling 15 points short of its average of 43.1 points per game.
No Lady Pioneer scored in double figures Thursday, marking the fourth straight game Warren County has failed to have a player reach 10 points.
Junior Jessie Newby led Warren County with eight points against Rhea County, including scoring all her team’s points in the first period.
Newby had two baskets in the first quarter to keep Warren County close. The Lady Eagles doubled up the Lady Pioneers on the scoreboard early as the visitors led 8-4 after eight minutes.
Rhea County continued to increase its lead in the second quarter with the Lady Pioneer offense having trouble producing. The Lady Eagles keyed on sophomore Bri Melton, the Lady Pioneers’ leading scorer, and forced other players to beat them.
Junior Zaya Holmes came through with a big 3-pointer midway through the period, but Warren County went into the locker rooms trailing 21-11.
Warren County tried cutting the Rhea County lead with precision passing in the third quarter. Good looks from Melton led to easy baskets for Newby and Rachel Nokes, but Rhea County came back with run-out layups to lead 30-18 after three quarters.
Even four fourth-quarter points from senior Megan Dishman and freshman Allison Hitchcock couldn’t bring the Lady Pioneers back late.
With the loss, Warren County falls into the consolation bracket. The Lady Pioneers will be back in action today at noon against Gabriel Christian. The game will be played at Morrison Elementary Gym.