JASPER, Tenn.–Parents, players, and coaches were all that remained on the court at Marion County High School after a hard-fought 73-58 loss to Clarkrange with a berth to the State Tourney on the line.
Usually this late in the evening, the gymnasium is empty except for the janitors and occasional head coach. There was no loitering of any kind on the hardwood, especially after a loss. Girls’ basketball was just another sport at the football-ladened institution.
That notion, though, changed dramatically Saturday night.
“We’re a big football school,” Senior Hannah Phillips explained, “Clarkrange is a huge basketball school, so just to have everybody here supporting us is really, really big. It’s just amazing to have that tonight. It was a huge adrenaline rush for us.”
As the players exited the locker room and ventured out to the gym, every soul standing began to cheer and applaud the effort given against the 6th-ranked team in Class A. The magic of a one-loss season was not lost on the few parents and fans waiting for the return of the Lady Warriors.
“There’s nothing that describe the way it makes you feel, all these people coming to watch you,” Emily Webb said. “That’s football, not girls’ basketball. It’s shocking almost. The crowd and support was just amazing.”
Coming in as favorites, Clarkrange began to score in droves early as they capitalized on several first quarter drives.
“They scored on their first eight trips down the floor,” Ellis said. “It would have been easy for them to roll over and die. They didn’t. We battled. Hannah and Emily came up with some big baskets early to keep us in it.”
Phillips, Vinson and Emily Webb continued to pour in shots, and without avail, the Lady Buffs of Clarkrange were able to counter every score.
“We knew they were going to come out and score because that’s what Meadows does, she scores a lot,” Webb explained. “We just had to wait for our scorers to kick in to score. We just had to score back for everything they did, but we didn’t.”
The Warriors eventually picked up a brief lead in the third quarter before Clarkrange’s Breanna Bush hit four threes to pull the Lady Buffaloes up and away from Marion County. The Buffs head to the Glass House for the State Tourney after mishandling their Murfreesboro ticket last season.
“Marion County was a little bit better than I thought they were,” Buffalo head coach Lamar Rogers said. “Playing a substate game on the road, you have to play good. The film makes people look slow sometimes. Tonight, I knew were going to have to play good after watching them in warmups. They’re just a really solid team.”
One of the major hurdles the Warriors had to try and jump was 6-foot-4 Kara Meadows who finished one point shy of 30 on the night.
“Teams have tried everything to stop Meadows,” Rogers continued. “She’s a Mrs. Basketball finalist, averaging 22 points a game, and she’s signed with MTSU. We’ve seen everything a team can throw at us, but with that first little foul at the beginning of the game, I thought that we could be in trouble playing on the road.”
The Lady Warriors end their season with a 26-2 record, a program best, with some younger talent still left on the roster for next season. The 2016-2017 season will likely become folklore, even without a State Tourney berth.
“This season has just been unreal,” Phillips said. “You just don’t ever see yourself going 26-1 and then making it to substate. At the beginning of the season, you’re just kind of there, and to have this kind of experience is just amazing.”
The Marion County fans can start to look towards softball and eventually their coveted football program, but when the 2017-2018 basketball season creeps around, they’ll think twice about missing another Lady Warrior showdown.
CHS — 22 | 15 | 16 | 20 || 73
MCHS — 14 | 20 | 14 | 10 || 58
CHS (73) — Kara Meadows (29), Hannah Garrett (18), Breanna Bush (14)
MCHS (58) — Emily Webb (19), Breanna Vinson (8), Ashton McGrew (3)