Climbing to the top of the mountain hasn’t been easy for the Lady Pioneers over the last four years, but everybody knew what it was going to take to reach the summit. Warren County needed to take down Coffee County, the reigning five-time district champs, if it wanted to be in rare air.
The Lady Pioneers finally reached the lofty status Friday night.
Warren County took down the state’s No. 2 ranked squad 48-42, snapping a 12-game losing streak to the Lady Raiders and forging a tie atop the District 6-4A standings. The Lady Pioneers, now 19-7 this season, can claim at least a share of the program’s first district championship in over four decades Tuesday by beating Shelbyville on the road.
Kyra Perkins, who was honored Friday for reaching the 1,000-point milestone earlier in the week, was a star for the Lady Pioneers. The senior forward scored a season-high 21 points and did a little bit of everything defensively in a defining win for the Lady Pioneers. Six of Warren County’s losses this season have been to teams ranked in the state AP polls, including a 32-29 loss at Manchester Jan. 24, but the Lady Pioneers picked up a pair of top-10 wins at home last week by taking down White County and Coffee County.
Sable Winfree added eight points and Mia Hobbs and Shelby Smartt had six points each as Warren County handed the Lady Raiders their first loss in 20 games and cemented its status as one of the top programs in the state.
“We felt like we had the pieces to do it. It’s just about putting it together and our girls did that tonight. They played a complete game,” said Anthony Lippe in a postgame interview with Voice of the Pioneers Jay Walker. “I’m almost speechless after a game like this one. Our girls have bought in all season to what we’re coaching and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Neither team was able to gain separation through two quarters as Coffee County went to the locker rooms up 23-20 thanks to a tip-in at the buzzer by Alivia Reel.
The Lady Pioneers came out of the break roaring, with Perkins getting a steal and score and Sable Winfree hitting a difficult layup falling down to complete a 5-0 run to take the lead back.
Natalie Barnes followed by taking over a 90-second stretch, sandwiching a pair of 3-pointers during the run around a third jumper to put Coffee County up 31-27. Warren County didn’t flinch, especially with Perkins ready to take over.
Perkins had a 7-0 run on her own spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth to flip the score for good. She started with a huge triple late in the third, connecting on the wing as Coffee County laid off and dared the senior to beat them from deep.
On the next possession, Perkins flew down the court in transition and scored through contact to make it 34-31 entering the final period. She opened the fourth with another layup as Hobbs grabbed a steal and fed her teammate for an easy bucket.
Brienne Kelsey nailed a crucial 3-pointer midway through the fourth after Coffee County got within two points. The lefty, who Sewanee offered last week, camped out in the right corner and got a perfect pass from Sable Winfree to knock down a triple that made it 39-34 with five minutes left.
Coffee County wouldn’t quit. Sophomore Channah Gannon tied the game at 39-39 with a three-point play with 3:40 remaining, but Smartt got the lead right back for Warren County with a pair of free throws.
She hit four more later, ultimately putting the Lady Pioneers up 45-42 with 1:09 to play.
A packed crowd started roaring with 50 seconds left when Savannah Winfree picked off a pass and Warren County was able to play keepaway for 20 seconds. When Coffee County finally fouled with :23 left, Kelsey calmly drained two free throws to make it a two-possession game.
Whistles could barely be heard in Charlie Dalton Gym when Warren County forced yet another turnover after a timeout – one of nearly 30 giveaways by the Lady Raiders. Perkins came up with the steal and hit a key free throw to expand the lead, then ended the game seconds later by throwing the ball toward the rafters when the final buzzer sounded.
Warren County will face Shelbyville Tuesday with a chance to secure a share of the district title and concludes the regular season Friday with senior night against Ooltewah. Both games are set to start at 6 p.m.
Lady Pioneer scoring – Perkins 21, Sable Winfree 8, Hobbs 6, Smartt 6, Kelsey 5, Lex Verge 2