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Late rally falls short for Lady Pioneers
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Playing against one of the top teams in the state on the road is never easy, especially when it’s a matchup against a team you’ve played less than two weeks ago.
The Warren County High School girls basketball team squared off with the Cannon County Lady Lions on Tuesday night and the result was the same as the first meeting. The Lady Pioneers fell by nine points once again, losing 43-34.
Warren County lost previously to Cannon County 44-35 in the consolation game of the Sun Drop Romp Christmas tournament.
Though the result was nearly identical, the performances were much different.
The Lady Pioneers, who led most of the first half in December, fell behind early against the Lady Lions this time around.
Seniors Bree Smith and Lauren Wilkinson each scored baskets in the early moments, but Cannon County ended the first quarter on a 13-0 run to lead 16-4 after eight minutes.
The lead swelled to 23-8 with two minutes to play in the first half, but the Lady Pioneers made a late run to go into the locker room with momentum.
Smith started the streak with a steal and coasted in for a layup to make it 23-10. Wilkinson followed with a layup of her own 30 seconds later as the clock entered the final minute of the half.
The third member of the Lady Pioneer senior class capped off the run with just seconds to spare. Taylor Johnson turned a pass from Smith into a late layup as Warren County went to halftime trailing 23-14.
Cannon County quickly swung the momentum back by putting the clamps on the Lady Pioneer offense in the third quarter.
Warren County scored only four points in the period, getting two jumpers from Wilkinson. On the other side, Cannon County started the quarter with an 8-2 run to move the lead back into double digits. The Lady Lions also demoralized the Lady Pioneers with a late steal and layup right before the buzzer to make it 33-18 going into the final period.
Instead of folding the tent, Wilkinson and Warren County battled back to make it a game.
Wilkinson began the fourth quarter by drilling a 3-pointer from the right wing to give the Lady Pioneers a shot of energy.
Smith brought Warren County back within 10 points a few minutes later when she corralled her own miss and scored on the rebound while being fouled. Smith sank the free throw to make it 33-24.
After a Cannon County turnover, Wilkinson found her favorite spot on the floor to spot up. Trailing a fast break, Wilkinson camped out on the right wing and got a pass from Camerie Martin. Wilkinson took a deep 3-pointer that hit nothing but net as Warren County cut the lead to six and forced a time-out by Cannon County.
The Lady Lions regrouped as Abbey Sissom swished a 3-pointer to make the lead nine, then Cannon County caused a turnover and hit another long-range shot to put the lead back in double digits.
Warren County had one last chance to make it a game after Martin had trimmed the lead back to nine with a putback, but a missed layup on Warren County’s end turned into an uncontested layup for the Lady Lions and elicited a reaction from Lady Pioneer coach Erick Baird.
Coach Baird called an immediate time-out and met his team at halfcourt as the coach was furious about the missed opportunity. After the game, coach Baird was more upbeat about the Lady Pioneer performance, but still knew the short-range misses hurt.
“I thought we played well in defending their shooters,” said Baird. “It was a couple of missed layups that gave them the advantage.”
“It was a good jolt right before district play. The last two years in Woodbury have been really tough but we took their best shot in the first quarter and came back strong.”
Freshman Bri Melton was the last Lady Pioneer to get into the scoring column as she sank a 3-pointer with 7.9 seconds left to provide the final basket of the game.
Wilkinson led the Lady Pioneers with 18 points. No other Warren County player finished in double figures as Smith was the second-highest scorer with nine points.
The Lady Pioneers will be looking for revenge tonight when the team opens District 6-AAA play in Manchester. Warren County lost in the district tournament finals to Coffee County last February and the Lady Raiders are the Lady Pioneers’ first district opponent. Tip-off tonight is set for 6 p.m.