JASPER, Tenn. - When Marion County's girls look back at the first TSSAA basketball sectional they hosted, it will be hard not to remember the slow, methodical way Red Boiling Springs secured a 70-53 victory with perfect free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter until coach Larry White emptied his bench late.
But it may be difficult trying to convince Marion's girls of anything other than they lost it in the first half.
Red Boiling Springs (32-5) set a school season record with the victory and advances to its fourth state tournament this week in Murfreesboro.
The Lady Warriors got off to a 7-2 start, but Red Boiling Springs had flipped that deficit to a 21-13 lead by the time MacKenize Painter made a 3-point shot from the right corner with 5:53 to go in the first half. Getting up by two on one occasion was the best they could do afterward.
"It took so much energy to get back there," Marion coach Randy Ellis said. "They're a disciplined team and they kept running their sets. They spread us out well."
Marion County responded to falling behind by eight by scoring the next six points. Then after a field goal along the right baseline by the Lady Bulldogs' Layce Colter, Samantha Oliver's 3-point goal for the Lady Warriors had them within a point. They went to halftime trailing 29-26.
Marion's second-half lead was 31-29 and came when Julie Nunley connected on a 3-point shot from the right corner. After consecutive field goals by the Lady Bulldogs, they turned things over to Colter.
"We wanted the game up and down," White said. "They had size on us. We've relied on transition all year. We felt we could get shots, which we did. Our top gun Colter didn't have a great first half, but, buddy, did she come to play in the second half."
From the 2:14 mark of the third quarter, Colter scored 24 of her game-high 28 points. She led the fourth-quarter parade to the free-throw line, making all 12 of hers while the Lady Bulldogs were 20-for-20 in the period before missing their last two.
"We knew if it was going to come down to a free-throw shooting contest we were in good shape," said White, whose team had made 73 percent on the season coming in.
Senior Keta Robinette, the Lady Warriors' all-time scoring leader, totaled 16 points.
"In four years Keta has never taken a night off," Ellis said. "Keta's the kind of player that not only gives us points but rebounds and assists, too, Keta has made us better because she's so unselfish."
Kayla Brown added 12 points for Marion County (22-10).
"These girls battled all year," Ellis said. "They played better than I coached."