A large portion of White County’s population made its way to Murfreesboro, on March 14, to cheer on Eric Mitchell’s White County Warriors as they made their first appearance in the State Tournament since 2015.
The band was there playing loudly and with great skill. The student section was raucous as they waved signs and huge replicas of the players faces. Sparta fans, both young and not-so-young, were cheering loudly to support their team from the opening tip. The energy inside “The Glass House” was great.
The opponents for the Warriors were the Martin Luther King Royals. The Royals are a very athletic team, with good size. They play an aggressive style of defense and seek to make their opponents play at a speed they are uncomfortable playing. The Warriors are accustomed to playing teams with more size, and they never backed down from the challenge the Royals presented.
Big-game jitters seemed to rule the day to start the game for both teams. Baskets were hard to come by. Jakeb Davis got the scoring going for the Warriors by hitting a nice 3-pointer to start the game. After baskets by Thomas Paul and Japheth Richmond, the Warriors had a 7-point lead with three minutes to go in the first quarter. The Royals came out from the start of the game with one of their tallest players guarding Warrior point guard Tripp Pinion. Pinion had a difficult time penetrating into the paint for layups and passes out to open shooters. The defensive struggle of a first quarter ended with the Warriors in front of the Royals 7-5.
Christian Henderson came into the game and immediately made his presence known. He scored on an old-fashioned 3-point play. Thomas Brock knocked down a 3. Thomas Paul and Tripp Pinion scored on drives to the rim. The Royals got their offense rolling. They were especially good at getting second chance points. They shot several ugly 3-pointers that served as passes to wide open Royals for layups. The Royals took the lead with 2:45 to go in the half and would not trail again in the ballgame. The lead for the Royals at halftime was 20-17.
The third quarter for the Warriors proved to be their downfall. The Royals seemed to get to every loose ball. Shots were not falling for the Warriors, and the Royals seemed to grab every rebound. The Royals outrebounded the Warriors 48-18 for the game. The Warriors did score in the third, just not as much as their opponents. Henderson got a friendly bounce on a 3-point basket. Brock hit a 3 in rhythm. Paul and Pinion continued to score the basketball. The Warriors were outscored 32-15 in the third quarter and found themselves trailing by 20 points going into the final quarter of play.
The Warriors were not about to go down without a fight. They made the Sparta fans proud as they made a run to close the gap in the score. The Warriors went on a 15-0 run to start the fourth quarter. Henderson made three difficult 3’s during that stretch. Paul and Richmond also got baskets. With 4:53 to go, the Warriors had narrowed the Royal lead to just 5 points. The Warriors trailed 52-47. The Royals closed the game on a 12-5 run and pulled away for a 64-52 win, ending the Warriors’ season.
Henderson led the Warriors with 15 points. Paul added 13 points. Jakeb Davis had 8 points. Brock scored 7 points. Pinion had 5, and Richmond had 4.
Coach Eric Mitchell along with Paul, Henderson and Richmond met with the media to discuss the game and the season. Coach Mitchell expressed his pride in his team. They were able to accomplish many things that other Warrior teams could not. They won a regional title for the first time since the 80’s. Mitchell affectionately called his players a “quirky bunch” that were always smiling and telling him and each other that they loved them. Mitchell and each of his players expressed gratitude toward the community for all their support. “Sparta is a special place to play any sport” one player said.
If you see coach Mitchell or any of his players out in our community, make sure to tell them how proud you are of their efforts and thank them for taking us along for the journey of this exciting season.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here