WHITWELL, Tenn.-With just under three minutes remaining in the District 6-A tournament championship game, Marion County High School's girls' basketball team was in unfamiliar territory. The top-seeded Lady Warriors trailed county rival Whitwell by four, only the second time all season that Marion had trailed a district opponent in the second half.
The response was swift and decisive as Marion closed out the game on a 13-2 run to claim a 55-48 victory and its second straight district tournament title.
"We got rattled a little bit. Whitwell was playing really well," Lady Warriors coach Randy Ellis said. "But all we did was challenge our girls, and they definitely responded."
From the early moments, Marion's Keta Robinette and Whitwell's Halle Ware began their own personal scoring battle. Robinette scored 19 of her game-high 29 points in the first half, and Ware also had 17 of her 23 in the first half.
Marion had beaten Whitwell with relative ease in the regular season and built a double-digit lead in the first half Monday. But when the Lady Tigers hit consecutive 3-pointers, they claimed their first lead with 3:11 left in the third quarter. Whitwell continued to feed off that momentum, and after Ware connected on back-to-back jump shots in a 20-second span, the hosts had a four-point lead with 3:42 remaining.
But Robinette's layup with just over two minutes remaining pulled Marion even, and Kayla Brown then connected on two free throws to put the Lady Warriors back in front for good.
The Lady Tigers failed to score again until the final two seconds, and during the final 2:51, all five Marion starters scored at least once.
"We knew we had to just start taking it at them-drive to the basket and stop settling for outside shots," said Robinette, the tournament MVP for a second straight year. "We knew we were either going to score or get fouled trying if we did that.
"It was a little frustrating for a while, but they're a good team and this is a tough place to win. But now we've won two straight district championships for the first time. We made school history, so how can you not be happy with that?"