WHITWELL, Tenn. - There was a lot more at stake than county bragging rights and regular-season district standings when the Marion County girls' basketball team played Friday night at Whitwell.
The visiting Lady Warriors' 58-46 win not only established them as the top team in the county and in District 6-A but also proved they can win in a tough environment that will host the district tournament in a matter of weeks.
Marion already had given Whitwell (18-7, 11-2) its lone district loss, a six-point home win, but was even more dominant in the rematch thanks to a triangle-and-two defense that frustrated the Lady Tigers' top two scorers.
"That was probably the most important thing about this game," said Marion senior wing Keta Robinette. "Now we're confident we can come back here and win in this gym when the district tournament starts.
"I think both teams were a little tight to start the game, and I kind of put a little extra pressure on myself to get us going. But once we settled down, our defense and rebounding really won us this game."
The teams combined to miss their first eight shot attempts, but Marion (13-9, 9-1) closed the first quarter on an 8-0 run to take the lead for good. Robinette, the Jasper school's career scoring leader who surpassed the 2,000-point mark earlier in the week, scored four of those eight points and finished with a game-high 24.
Robinette also kick-started the Lady Warriors' second-half surge with a putback basket followed by a 3-pointer to extend a five-point lead to a double-digit advantage. The Lady Warriors built a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter.
"The thing about Keta is she's patient," Marion coach Randy Ellis said. "She has a great feel for the game, so you never have to tell her when to pick it up and get us going. She just turns it on when we need her to score or make a play.
"I thought our defense and rebounding were big keys for us, too. They didn't get many second chances to score. Once they missed, we were grabbing the rebound and getting it back down the court. Hopefully we'll remember this one in a few weeks if we see them again, because this is not an easy play to come in and get a win."