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Lady Pioneers snap losing skid
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Seniors Lauren Wilkinson and Bree Smith were 3-years-old the last time the Warren County High School girls basketball team won in Cookeville. Freshman Bri Melton had yet to see her first birthday.
But the trio of Lady Pioneers helped snap a 15-year losing streak in Cookeville Friday night when Warren County defeated the Lady Cavaliers on their home court 41-35.
Wilkinson, who topped the 1,500-point mark in the Lady Pioneers’ home loss to Cumberland County, scored a team-high 14 points while Smith added 12 and Melton tallied nine.
Going into Friday’s game with identical 1-6 records in District 6-AAA and knowing the two teams would play again six days later, the only motivator the teams had were streaks.
Cookeville hadn’t lost to Warren County on its home court since 1997 but the Lady Pioneers entered Friday’s contest on a three-game winning streak over the Lady Cavaliers.
Warren County was able to move its streak to four behind streaky outside shooting and holding off a late charge by the Lady Cavaliers.
Wilkinson got the ball rolling early as she drained a pair of 3-pointers in the game’s first five minutes. Smith added another 3-pointer moments later as the Lady Pioneers led 9-7 after the first quarter.
Melton, who has been a big contributor since moving into the starting lineup two weeks ago, nailed two 3-pointers in the second quarter to help the Lady Pioneers push the lead to 17-13 by halftime.
After the break, the rivalry between the teams seemed to manifest as the top players from each team took shots at one another.
Cookeville junior Hannah Goolsby kept a close eye on Wilkinson and the two seemed to exchange words on several occasions.
Wilkinson quieted Goolsby in the third quarter when she matched Goolsby’s first 3-pointer with her third, leaving the Lady Cavaliers trailing 25-18 entering the final period.
Smith and Wilkinson each hit early buckets in the fourth quarter to push the lead into double figures, but a late press by the Lady Cavaliers brought the game within one with a minute to play.
The small miscues that let the Lady Cavaliers creep back into the game disappeared in the final minute as Smith and Wilkinson controlled the ball and sank free throws to help the Lady Pioneers prevail over Cookeville and clinch the No. 4 seed in this week’s District 6-AAA tournament.
Although finishing one spot ahead of Cookeville, the preseason pick to win the district, was an accomplishment for Warren County, the win didn’t change the Lady Pioneers’ opening matchup in the play-in game.
The Lady Cavaliers and Lady Pioneers will face off for the third time Thursday night with each team’s season on the line.
A loss Thursday would mean the Lady Pioneers would go home for good, but a win means moving on to face the No. 1 seed White County Warriorettes Saturday night. Beating Cookeville Thursday would also send Warren County to the regionals for the second straight season.
The District 6-AAA tournament will be played at Cumberland County High School and begins Thursday night with a 6 p.m. tip-off between the Lady Pioneers and Lady Cavaliers.
The Lady Pioneers finish their regular season tomorrow night when the squad plays host to Van Buren County on what is being called “pinkout” night. The game will begin at 6 p.m.
Pink T-shirts have been on sale in the main lobby for the last month as the Lady Pioneers help raise money for breast cancer awareness. A limited number of T-shirts will be on sale before the game tomorrow night. Cost is $10.