In its last two outings, slow starts doomed the Warren County High School girls basketball team. Against the Tullahoma Lady Wildcats Friday, the Lady Pioneers faltered near the finish.
Warren County let a nine-point lead in the second half slip away as Tullahoma battled back to beat the Lady Pioneers 40-31.
Tullahoma ended the game on a 14-3 run in the final three minutes, when the Lady Pioneers saw a three-point lead turn into their third straight loss.
Warren County (5-4) avoided digging early holes that resulted in losses to Franklin County and Harpeth Hall in its last two games, though the offense was still slow at the start.
The Lady Pioneers only scored two points in the first quarter, a putback by senior Megan Dishman on the opening possession, but Warren County outscored Tullahoma 10-2 in the second quarter to lead 12-9 at halftime.
Dishman finally snapped an eight-minute scoreless streak for the Lady Pioneers with a jumper from the baseline to start the second period.
Dishman kept rolling when she received a perfect high-low pass from Jessie Newby and scored to pull the Lady Pioneers within one with 6:29 left in the first half.
Newby threw another pretty pass to Camerie Martin to give Warren County an 8-7 lead, then Dishman returned the favor from earlier as she hit Newby in the post for an easy layup.
Sophomore Brittany Myers capped the Lady Pioneer run when she stepped in front of a Tullahoma pass and coasted in for a layup with 47.2 seconds to give Warren County a three-point lead at the break.
The Lady Wildcats cut the Lady Pioneer lead to one with a basket to open the second half, but Warren County responded with an 8-2 run.
Newby started the rally with two free throws, then sophomore Bri Melton made her presence felt on offense.
Melton, who came into the game averaging a team-high 15 points per game, got her first points on a jumper from the baseline to make it 16-13.
After two free throws from Myers made it a five-point lead, Melton fed Dishman for a layup that nearly resulted in a three-point play, but Dishman missed the free toss.
Melton gave the Lady Pioneers their biggest advantage when she banked in a runner in the lane to make it 22-13 with 1:31 left in the third quarter, but Tullahoma was able to get a little momentum when Kentoria Alexander sank a 3-pointer before the buzzer.
It proved to be a precursor of things to come for the Lady Wildcats as long-range shooting powered the home team to victory.
Erin Layne scored 13 points for Tullahoma in the final period, including swishing the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:37 to play, as the Lady Pioneers couldn’t hang on to their lead.
Newby kept Warren County ahead with two early baskets to begin the quarter, but Layne’s 3-pointer signaled the beginning of the end for the Lady Pioneers.
Warren County didn’t hit a shot from the field as the team only scored four points in the final 4:41. Dishman hit three free throws and Martin added a make at the line with 19.7 seconds to go after the Lady Wildcats had put the game away.
Coach Erick Baird hopes a week of practice leading up to the Lady Pioneers’ next game can help the team break a three-game losing streak.
“We have to finish games,” said Baird. “We couldn’t finish against Tullahoma. We have a week of practice before our next game and it will be something we’ll be working on.”
The Lady Pioneers won’t play again until Saturday, when Warren County travels to Centennial. Tipoff is set for start at 6 p.m.