With the deficit growing and time dwindling, it looked like the Lady Pioneers’ win streak was about to be snapped. Lawrence County just couldn’t deliver the knockout blow.
Warren County was able to fight out of a 13-point deficit in the second half Monday in the Sonic Shootout to beat the Lady Wildcats 73-65 in overtime. The rally helped the Lady Pioneers extend their winning streak to five games and improve to 9-2 overall.
Coach Anthony Lippe has said multiple times this season that his group of girls are hungry to change the program. He saw their fight and desire in full force against the stout Lady Wildcats, who couldn’t keep the Lady Pioneers down for long.
“It was a crazy game. We were down 8-0 early and they pushed us back down to start the second half, but we just continued to fight and claw back,” said Lippe, who will see his team battle York in the semifinals Tuesday. “We chipped away and finally got it tied in the fourth. From there, it was just back-and-forth, but we were able to get after it defensively in overtime and that fueled our offense.
“Anytime our defense is creating easy offense for us, like it was in overtime, that’s when we’re at our best.”
Warren County had three steals in the final 1:30 of overtime and cleaned up the glass in extra time. Kyra Perkins, who missed a layup at the buzzer that could’ve won the game in regulation, was a nightmare for Lawrence County late.
Perkins, who finished with 10 points, had a putback to start overtime and added a big steal and score with 1:00 left, giving the Lady Pioneers a six-point cushion, 65-59, in the late stages.
Leaning on Perkins’ athleticism – she was part of a fierce finishing five that played straight man to perfection - seemed to be the only answer Warren County could find that worked against the Lady Wildcats.
“We came out and tried to press, but it didn’t bother them at all. After that, we got back in our zone and they lit us up. So, we went man where we matched up well. Sable (Winfree) kept us in it early, getting some steals and easy layups,” said Lippe. “Late in the game, that’s when Kyra and our girls are at their best. They play the passing lanes well to get out and running.”
Perkins’ steal and score was immediately followed by Sable Winfree picking the pocket of Lawrence County at midcourt. Instead of cruising in, the sophomore guard smartly circled out in hopes of running off more clock. She was able to run around and drain the clock down to 45.4 seconds left before she was sent to the line.
Sable missed both of her free throws – rare misses from the charity stripe for Warren County Monday – but her sister was there to grab the carom. Savannah had several key rebounds in overtime and scored six of her season-best 12 points in the final four minutes.
Savannah put the final touches on the victory with 4.4 seconds left, when she was shoved hard from behind while helping Warren County break the press. Lawrence County was whistled for an intentional foul on the play, allowing Winfree to walk to the other end and casually bury two clinching free throws.
The junior forward was critical in helping the Lady Pioneers make a second-half run and win, according to her coach.
“Savannah played the best game she has ever played for us. When they were hurting us in the post, she changed the game – she wasn’t going to get sealed. She was swimming around, breaking contact and getting in front,” said Lippe. “She’s so athletic. People may think she’s undersized, but she can get off the floor and she’s so quick. She gets deflections and is deceivingly fast. Her basketball IQ is really high – getting her confidence up was the big thing.
“Her confidence is up – and our staff has really backed her. She’s getting better and better each game. She stepped up big for us - Grabbing boards, hitting free throws, getting layups and doing all the little things to make us better.”
Savannah’s breakout game was part of a big team effort from the Lady Pioneers. Warren County had five players in double figures, led by Sable Winfree’s team-high 19 points (many coming in the first half to help the Lady Pioneers erase a slow start).
Brienne Kelsey added a season-best 14 points, including draining two crucial 3-pointers in the second quarter that jumpstarted the offense. Shelby Smartt also had two 3-pointers in the first half, part of an 11-point effort that could’ve been more if she hadn’t fouled out late. Shelby barely missed ending the game in regulation as well, missing a corner 3 in the final 10 seconds of a tie game.
Mia Hobbs added seven points while helping lead the charge defensively in the second half. Hobbs also drained a crucial 3-pointer in the early part of the fourth quarter after the Lady Pioneers started the final period trailing 45-37.
Monday’s win improved Warren County to 2-0 this season in overtime games. The Lady Pioneers also defeated Notre Dame in extra time back in November, 64-62, during the Whitwell Hall of Fame games.
Warren County will face York Institute in Tuesday’s semifinals at 4 p.m. York (8-2) moved into the semifinals after Van Buren County had to forfeit Monday’s matchup due to illness in the program.