JASPER, Tenn.–The last time Van Buren County fell short of the district title, Marion County’s senior standouts were still two years away from their freshmen season.
The throne has long been in the hands of the Eaglettes, but when Hannah Phillips, Emily Webb, and Breanna Vinson makeup three-fifths of you starting lineup, that chair quickly becomes vacant. That empty throne was no more Monday night, though, as the Warriors took the District 6A crown, 70-56, capping off a 22-1 season while staying undefeated during the district schedule.
“Van Buren is used to cutting down these nets and knows what it is to win,” Marion County head coach Randy Ellis said. “The girls learned what it is to win this season. They had us off balance early. We had confidence coming into the game that we didn’t have in the first two quarters.”
The Eaglettes were not the favorite to win the title after getting trounced twice by the Warriors earlier in the year, but after some late season heroics against AA powers Sequatchie County and Bledsoe County, Van Buren was starting to get in a rhythm.
Early in the game, that rhythm was clicking efficiently as Van Buren kept the margin in single digits and even led at one point.
“We were just trying to shut down Emily and Hannah,” Eaglettes head coach Tyler Sapp said. “We did a really good job of that until the third quarter. Emily kept crashing the glass and Phillips ended up with 11 free throws. Breanna Vinson just had the game of her life on top of that.”
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The Warriors were unable to pull away in the first half even with the help of Vinson and Emily Webb, who combined for 49 of the Warriors’ 70 points. Van Buren County trailed by only five points going into the locker room.
In the third quarter, though, Emily Webb found a way to get the Eaglettes into foul trouble down low while she quietly score 10 in the period. The Eaglettes would push the margin to single digits late, but the Warriors’ free-throw ability was too much, giving Marion County its first district title since 2011.
“I never dream that they would play that well,” Ellis said. “We were in a good spot this season where we had good players returning. We’re one of the only ones that brought guys back. The other teams did not the amount of players returning that we did. It’s remarkable that they’ve come this far.”
The title matchup Monday night was just the latest in the new-found Marion-Van Buren rivalry, but that game might be the last of the series.
“With Marion County going to Double-A next year, this game is going to vanish,” Sapp explained. “I just don’t know if we’ll play them next year. We’ve had some great, epic battle for the last two years I’ve been here, even as an assistant last year. They’re really our only Single-A rivalry at this point.”
Cross court from the Eaglettes bench, no love is lost between the two kings of the 6A district.
“We definitely don’t love one another,” Ellis said. “That was obvious tonight. And credit to Van Buren County, they always come ready to play.”
Both the Warriors and Eaglettes host in the first round of the Region 3A tournament, which starts on Friday. The seeding for District 5A has yet to be determined and will be settled on Wednesday.
Marion County will host the semifinal and championship games for the region tournament.
MCHS — 12 | 23 | 23 | 12 || 70
VBHS — 13 | 17 | 10 | 16 || 56
MCHS (70) — Breanna Vinson (26), Emily Webb (23), Hannah Phillips (8)
VBHS (56) — Tilly Dodson (24), Mallory Christian (17), Hannah Sullivan (5)