Cookeville’s coaches had to be thinking Shea Panter discovered the secret to cloning. How else could Tyra Wright be everywhere at one time?
Wright dominated the fourth quarter of Friday’s play-in game of the District 6-AAA tournament, helping the Lady Pioneers rally from a six-point deficit to defeat Cookeville 52-42, ending their rivals’ season in a matchup at Rhea County High School.
“They had pure joy on their faces in the locker room,” said coach Panter. “I thought we made the shots when we needed to and played tough when we needed to.”
It helps to make all the winning plays when the Lady Pioneers had Wright and Cookeville didn’t.
Before the game, Wright was given a plaque in honor of her all-district selection. She showed why she took home the hardware in the final three minutes.
The junior post, who finished with 16 points, controlled action on both ends of the court, making every big play Warren County needed. Wright gave her team its first lead of the second half with 2:24 to play when she muscled through fellow all-district selection Chloe Grace Savage, hitting the layup and adding a free throw following a foul.
The and-one put Warren County ahead 44-42 and was part of a 14-0 run to end the game. On the other end, Wright stuffed Savage in the post on a game-tying attempt, then was able to corral the rebound long enough to bank it off Cookeville to give the Lady Pioneers possession.
The Lady Cavaliers were able to force a turnover to get a second chance to tie, but Wright was waiting again. Cookeville once again tried to go at Wright, but she stepped in and took a charge.
Emily Mikkola followed with two clutch free throws, giving Warren County a four-point lead with 1:05 to play.
The Lady Cavaliers missed on two front ends of 1-and-1s on the other end, but were able to grab the rebound each time. Wright secured a steal though, then hit two free throws on the other end.
Wright pulled in her final rebound with 6.6 seconds to play – securing a double double in the process – and ended the game with two free throws.
Megan Patch, who also was recognized before the game for earning honorable mention all-district status, led the Lady Pioneers with 17 points. Patch hit a critical 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, getting a great feed from Grace Rains for an open outside look that jumpstarted Warren County’s dominant finish.
Patch also had a clutch 3-pointer in the final seconds of the first quarter, when her triple from the corner gave Warren County a 15-14 advantage.
Cookeville controlled the middle quarters, getting seven points each from Savage and all-district selection Julianne Dunaway to build a lead. The Lady Cavaliers punctuated the stretch with Cassie Shope’s putback at the horn in the third quarter, pushing Warren County behind 40-34 to start the fourth.
Wright made sure the Lady Pioneers got the last laugh though. It was the first time Warren County had beaten Cookeville twice in the same season since 2011-12. In the last five seasons, Cookeville dominated the series, winning 12 of 13 matchups.
Friday’s comeback also snapped a seven-game losing streak and, more importantly, qualified the Lady Pioneers for the region tournament.
Punching a ticket for more postseason basketball is something coach Panter had on her goal list all season.
“It’s a great reward for the girls to finally get a big win. We have come so close so many times this year and hadn’t put it together until now,” said Panter. “It’s important to make it to region so we know we belong and that hard work does pay off.”
Warren County had to make the return trip to Rhea County Saturday to face top-seed Stone Memorial. Results were unavailable at press time. The Lady Pioneers will be back in action Monday, with their game time dependent on Saturday’s results.
Check @sstandardsports on Twitter for the latest updates for the District 6-AAA tournament schedule.