Rachel Johnson was named the MVP of the fifth- and sixth-grade girls elementary league, but she was MIA most of the league’s tournament championship game.
Held to just two points through three quarters, Johnson scored three points in the final quarter and hit a game-winning free throw with two seconds to go in overtime to help the Dibrell Lady Wildcats defeat the Warren County Middle School Lady Pioneers 35-34.
Foul trouble and a fired-up Lady Pioneer defense kept Johnson in check for most of the game, but Bailey Barrett picked up the slack for the Lady Wildcats.
Barrett scored 21 points and did most of her damage from the free-throw line. Barrett finished 13-of-20 from the charity stripe, including hitting five freebies in the fourth quarter and two more in overtime.
Saturday night’s championship game went down to the wire, which most people expected when Dibrell and Warren County took the court at Centertown Elementary School.
Both teams finished the regular season at 11-1 and the teams split the regular-season series. Dibrell gained the upper-hand entering the tournament when the Lady Wildcats demolished the Lady Pioneers 37-21 in their final game of the regular season.
When the game tipped off though, it was the Lady Pioneers who were the aggressor. Led by Kaylee Chisam, Warren County opened up a nine-point lead midway through the second quarter.
Chisam was the driving force as the Lady Pioneer star scored 10 points in the first 10 minutes. Chisam was responsible for giving Warren County its biggest lead when she stole a pass near midcourt and went uncontested for a layup to make it 18-9 with 3:55 left in the second quarter.
Dibrell fought back though in the final four minutes of the first half. Barrett capitalized on an overaggressive Lady Pioneer defense to earn two trips to the free-throw line in the final three minutes and sank three shots.
A long jumper by Brianna Young also banked in the final minute as the Lady Wildcats went into halftime trailing 18-14.
The four-point Warren County lead would be the biggest the rest of the game. Elliana Morales and Barrett each connected on jumpshots to tie the game midway through the third, but Chisam answered back by hitting 2-of-4 free throws down the stretch to give Warren County a 20-18 advantage entering the fourth.
Barrett started off the fourth quarter with a bang for Dibrell. Barrett drove to the baseline and was able to force up a shot while being fouled. The shot rolled in and Barrett added the free throw to complete the three-point play and give Dibrell its first lead of the second half.
The lead didn’t last long though. Chisam got into the teeth of the Dibrell defense for a layup. Chisam was also fouled on her shot, but missed the free throw as Warren County reclaimed a one-point lead.
Jalynn Davis swung the score back in favor of Dibrell with a layup, then Johnson scored her first points since the first quarter on a free-throw line jumper to make it 25-22 Lady Wildcats with 4:32 to play.
Following a time-out by Warren County coach Shawnda Ramsey, Shonacye Rutledge put the Lady Pioneers on her back and pushed the team back in the lead.
Rutledge scored on a layup to cut the lead to one, then got a steal and scored a minute later to put the Lady Pioneers ahead 26-25.
Barrett followed by making two trips to the charity stripe and swishing four shots to give Dibrell a three-point lead.
Chisam cut the lead back to one on a putback with 2:08 to play, but Johnson followed by splitting a pair of free throws to give Dibrell a 30-28 lead entering the final minute.
Hope Mullican only scored two points for the Lady Pioneers, but they were an important two points. Mullican tied the game with 46 seconds when she banked in a shot from the right wing.
Barrett wasted no time pushing Dibrell back in the lead. Barrett took the inbounds pass, then went the length of the court before pulling up for a short jumper that was pure.
Warren County’s tying attempt on the ensuing possession was missed, but the mad scramble for the rebound ended up with Rutledge near the Lady Pioneer basket.
Rutledge took two dribbles and snuck a layup with 18 seconds remaining to knot the score at 32.
Dibrell coach Betsy McBride let her team drive down the court, then took a time-out with 7.7 seconds left to set up a final play. The inbounds pass was batted around and eventually a tie ball was called under the Dibrell goal.
The Lady Wildcats had the arrow in their favor, but their second attempt to bring the ball in for a final shot was just as unsuccessful as the first. Chisam stole the inbounds pass and dribbled out the clock to force overtime.
In the two-minute overtime, both teams had chances early to take leads but free-throw shooting was a struggle. Chisam and Rutledge each missed a pair in the opening minute for Warren County while Morales missed two for Dibrell.
Things turned with 56 seconds left when Chisam fouled Barrett and sent the Dibrell guard to the line. The foul was a big one as it was Chisam’s fifth and the Lady Pioneers’ leading scorer had to watch the final minute from the bench.
Barrett made 1-of-2 to give Dibrell a one-point lead, but she got another opportunity at the line 30 seconds later. After another Warren County foul, Barrett split a pair of free throws to put Dibrell ahead 34-32.
Rutledge came up with her second big basket for Warren County though. With 14.6 seconds to play, Rutledge hit a bank shot from the right wing to tie the game and force Dibrell to try to win with a last-second shot once again.
Dibrell had trouble in the final seconds finding an open look as the Lady Wildcats had to settle for a contested jumper. The shot missed, but Johnson was in perfect position under the basket to claim the rebound.
When Johnson went up for the ball, she was pushed in the back and the referee whistled the foul with :02 left in overtime.
Johnson got a chance to be the hero and she was just that. Johnson sank the first shot to put Dibrell ahead, then missed the second and watched the clock hit zero and ran into the arms of her coach to celebrate victory.
Barrett led Dibrell with 21 points, followed by Johnson with six. Davis, Morales, Young and Taylor Watson scored two points apiece.
Chisam scored 16 points in the championship game for Warren County. Rutledge added 10 points, followed by Mullican, India Fann, Marah Wanamaker and Lexie Chadwell with two points each.