JASPER, Tenn. -- After getting close only to fall just short the previous three seasons, the Whitwell girls' basketball team used a stifling defense and a dash of Halle Ware's scoring touch to claim the District 6-A tournament championship Monday.
A blur of waving arms and hands helped the Lady Tigers, the tournament runners-up the last three years, force 13 turnovers and overcome a sluggish start to pull away from Sale Creek 46-30 at Marion County High School.
The teams had scored just one basket each through the first four minutes of the game, but Sale Creek built an eight-point advantage by the opening seconds of the second quarter. But a steal and layup by Ware began a 15-4 Whitwell run that helped regain the lead by halftime. Ware scored six points during that stretch and opened the third quarter with four quick points as the Lady Tigers begin pulling away.
"I think we just had a little bit of championship game jitters," said Ware, who was named tournament most valuable player after scoring a game-high 23 points. "Any time we are having trouble scoring, I kind of take it on myself to do something to get us going.
"It feels great to finally win it after we had been so close."
Marion County's girls won the consolation game, beating Van Buren County 39-31.
After Whitwell built its lead to nine midway through the third quarter, Sale Creek closed within five on a 3-pointer by Chelsie Roark, but Ware answered right back with a 3-pointer of her own, beginning a 7-0 run. The Lady Tigers, who had given Sale Creek its only two district losses during the regular season as well, closed the game on a 7-1 surge.
"You would think a team that has played in so many of these games wouldn't have come out flat, but we did for whatever reason," Whitwell coach Eric Zensen said. "Halle is outstanding when we get in those positions and really need her most. When we need to get going with a big basket, we know she's the one to take control, because she's such a competitor."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.