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WCHS girls drop fifth straight tilt
Emily Mikkola beats a double team for two of her team-high 10 points Friday. The Lady Pioneers lost 44-35, dropping the team to 0-6 in district.

The effort at the end was exactly what Shea Panter wanted, but the Lady Pioneers never could climb out of an early hole.

Warren County fell behind 16-0 against Rhea County and was never able to quite catch up, falling 44-35 Friday night at Charlie Dalton Gym. The loss drops the Lady Pioneers to 9-16 overall and 0-6 in District 6AAA play.

“Despite the slow start, I thought we played with hustle and determination,” said Panter. “We need this same determination Tuesday to beat Cookeville.”

It was the second straight game the Lady Pioneers fell behind big early. Last week at Stone Memorial, Warren County went down 34-4. Friday’s start wasn’t as insurmountable, though the Lady Pioneers were never able to get in front.

The lead was the narrowest with 2:04 to play. Grace Rains was able to make it a three-point game when she powered to the rim for a layup. The basket made it 32-29, but Warren County was unable to get key stops late.

Mallory Hampton iced the game by hitting 10-of-10 free throws for Rhea County in the fourth quarter, part of a 28-point night.

Hampton was the catalyst behind Rhea County’s hot start. Last year’s District 6AAA player of the year scored 10 of her team’s first 16 points, which were all unmatched by the Lady Pioneers.

Warren County didn’t get on the board until the final two minutes of the first quarter. Emily Mikkola broke the goose egg with a 3-pointer and followed with a steal and score.

Mikkola finished with a team-high 10 points and earned praise from her coach following the game.

“Mikkola stepped up in a big way to be a momentum changer for us,” said Panter.

The fifth-year coach was also impressed by the performance of freshman Jaden Smartt, who scored nine points, and Tyra Wright’s defense as the team tried to claw back.

“Tyra gave us a voice on defense and we had several step up off the bench to help us to keep digging,” said Panter. “Jaden gave us great minutes tonight.”

Megan Patch cut the lead to single digits late in the third quarter with a 3-pointer, sending her team into the final period trailing 29-20.

Smartt made it a seven-point game with a driving layup, contorting around defenders for an impressive finish.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Mikkola scored on a cutting layup to make it 32-27. Patch followed by forcing a five-second call, leading to Rains’ layup.

Rains finished with six points, while Patch and Wright scored three points apiece. Hallie Pennington and Kam Nowlin added two points each.

Warren County will try to snap a five-game losing streak Tuesday at Cookeville. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.