WCHS Warriors headed to State Tournament on Tuesday

Last-minute basket wins game for the celebrated boys from Sparta


Excitement and anticipation filled the air March 6 as what appeared to be a record crowd made its way into Roy Sewell Gymnasium for the Sub-State matchup between the White County Warriors and the Austin East Roadrunners.

 The atmosphere was electric. As the Warriors took the floor to warm up, the fans began to cheer loudly.  The Roadrunners took the    court and after stretching appeared to put on an impromptu dunk contest in warmups.  Whether the display was done out of arrogance or ignorance it would come back to bite the Roadrunners as it gave the Warriors two free throws and the ball to start the game.

Jakeb Davis calmly stepped to the free throw line to start the game by shooting the technical foul shots. Both of Jakeb’s shots were true, and the Warriors were on the scoreboard early. The Warriors seemed to feed off the energy of the crowd and hit three early 3-pointers.  Thomas Paul hit back-to-back threes and Davis hit a deep one as well.  The referees seemed hesitant to blow their whistles in the early going of the game, and it led to a very physical style of play.  The Warrior faithful were shocked when the Roadrunners were allowed to get away with excessive contact without being called for fouls.  The student section and other Warrior fans were quick to give the referees a  loud critique of their performance.  The Roadrunners were able to get to the basket and kept the Warriors from extending their lead, despite their early hot shooting.  The score after one quarter was 14-12 in favor of the Warriors.

The Roadrunner defense stiffened in the second quarter.  The Warriors had a hard time finding open 3-point shots.  Tripp Pinion was able to make his way to the basket on a couple of nice drives. One spinning drive resulted in an old-fashioned 3-point play.  Christian Henderson came off the bench and sliced his way between defenders, scoring 4 points in the second quarter.  Austin East took the lead with about six minutes left in the half. The two teams battled back and forth, and the Warriors went into halftime trailing 27-25.

         Several times this season the Warriors have let a bad offensive quarter be their downfall.  It appeared that the third quarter might be just that for the Warriors. The Warriors only scored 7 points in the quarter.  Jakeb Davis did start the half with a clutch 3-pointer.  Christian Henderson and Japheth Richmond were able to get the ball into the hoop to complete the scoring for the home team in the quarter.  The Roadrunners were able to extend their lead to 7 points after three quarters.  The score going into the fourth was 39-32.

The Warriors played hard in the final quarter.  They fought back and got the game to within 4 points with just over five minutes left in the game.  Japheth Richmond made two great plays in the post to start the quarter.  Thomas Paul had an acrobatic drive that resulted in a 3-point play.  Despite the Warriors’ efforts, however, the Roadrunners extended their lead once again.  The Warriors found themselves down by 9 points with 4:16 left to go in the game.  It would have been easy for a team to resign itself to the fact that maybe it was just not their year.  That wasn’t the case with the Warriors. Their heart and the support of that packed gymnasium pushed the Warriors to keep fighting.  Christian Henderson stepped up when his team needed him the most.  He showed absolutely no fear as he drained shot after shot in the final minutes. Down 51-49, Henderson nailed a deep contested 3 to give the Warriors a 52-51 lead with 1:15 left in the game.  Austin East’s star player drove the ball down the court and pulled the defenders toward him leaving his teammate open for a basket with 1:01 left on the clock. The score was 53-52 in favor of the Roadrunners. Thomas Paul made a drive to the basket and got the ball up on the rim, but it popped out.  Japheth Richmond soared over the Roadrunner defenders for one of the biggest rebounds in White County Warrior basketball history. After a time out, the Warriors had the ball with 8.5 seconds left in the game.  Tripp Pinion inbounded the ball and then got it back.  He drove to the basket with a determination that wouldn’t be denied. With 2.7 seconds left in the game, the ball went through the hoop giving the Warriors the 54-53 lead.  A half court heave for the Roadrunners fell short, and Roy Sewell Gymnasium exploded into celebration.

Coach Eric Mitchell said of the game, “ I am so proud of these guys! What about the student section and Sparta fans? There is no place like Sparta and Roy Sewell Gymnasium.”

Christian Henderson led the Warriors on the night with 18 points. Thomas Paul added 13 points.  Jakeb Davis was in double figures with 10.  Tripp Pinion had 7 points, including the game-winning bucket.  Japheth Richmond had 6 points to go along with several rebounds.  Thomas Brock led the team in rebounding with 8 on the night.

The win sends the Warriors to the State Tournament where they face off with the Martin Luther King Royals, at approximately 11:30 a.m., March 14. The game will be played at MTSU’s Murphy Center also known as “The Glass House.”


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