Usually seeing Lauren Wilkinson sitting on the bench in the second half means the Lady Pioneer basketball team is winning big or in serious trouble. Against Sequatchie County Thursday in the Woodbury Thanksgiving Classic, the Lady Pioneers were in serious trouble.
With Wilkinson sitting on the bench in the final two minutes after fouling out, Warren County was able to pull out a 33-29 victory behind big efforts from Bree Smith, Camerie Martin, Jessie Newby and Taylor Johnson.
Smith and Martin hit four free throws in the final minute to put the Lady Pioneers ahead for good while coach Erick Baird watched nervously from the sideline.
Free-throw shooting had been the Achilles’ heel for the Lady Pioneers in a loss to DeKalb County earlier in the week and Warren County had missed 13 free throws against Sequatchie County before Smith stepped to the line with 55.6 seconds to play.
The senior guard calmly buried two free throws to make it 31-27. Sequatchie County narrowed the gap back to two with a layup with 43.4 seconds to play, then Warren County had to weather a game-winning shot rimming out before the Lady Pioneers could clinch the game at the charity stripe.
Following Sequatchie County cutting the lead to 31-29, Warren County had some problems bringing the ball up court. Coach Baird took a time-out to avoid a 10-second backcourt violation, but the Lady Pioneers turned the ball over trying to inbound the ball following the break.
Sequatchie County had a chance to tie or take the lead and it went for the win. Sequatchie County had a clean look at a 3-pointer from the left wing, but the shot was off the mark and Newby came away with a rebound.
The ball found Martin, who was quickly fouled and sent to the line. The sophomore point guard knocked down two free throws with 11.8 seconds left to clinch the Lady Pioneers’ third victory.
The victory looked in doubt with 2:05 to play when Wilkinson was whistled for her fifth foul on a charge. Wilkinson, who came into the game averaging 22.5 points, had woken up in the fourth quarter with a putback and two free throws, but went to the bench for good with only eight points.
In her place, Newby stepped in and played a huge role. While Wilkinson was out in the third quarter, Newby knocked in a 3-pointer from the left corner to give Warren County its first lead of the second half at 21-19.
In the final two minutes, Newby didn’t score but she collected four crucial rebounds and played solid defense to help the Lady Pioneers win.
Warren County got all its scoring from seniors in the early part of Thursday’s game. Smith opened the game with a layup off the tip, then followed it with a steal and score to make it 4-0 a minute into the game.
Sequatchie County scored five straight points to take the lead before Wilkinson tied the game with a free throw.
Johnson gave the Lady Pioneers a 9-7 lead when she scored on a putback with 2:52 left in the first and followed with two free throws with 1:04 to play, but Sequatchie County scored the final four points of the quarter to lead going into the second.
It wasn’t until Martin hit a free throw with 5:46 left in the second when a non-Lady Pioneer senior got on the board. It was followed by free-throw line jumper from Wilkinson and Smith, Wilkinson and Martin each connecting on 1-of-2 free throws down the stretch as the Lady Pioneers trailed 19-16 at halftime.
Newby’s 3-pointer in the third quarter was part of a 6-0 run to begin the second half as Warren County stormed into the lead. The Lady Pioneers held Sequatchie County to two points in the third quarter to own the lead going into the final eight minutes.
Warren County had its struggles to hang on to the lead, but in the end it was free throws from Smith and Martin that helped the team improve to 3-2.
Smith finished with a team-high nine points. Wilkinson finished with eight, followed by Johnson with six.
The Lady Pioneers will return to action Tuesday night when the team travels to Franklin County. Warren County will take on the Lady Rebels beginning at 6 p.m.