It was hard to not hear “We’re going to Diddle!” being chanted.
It was echoing inside the locker room and carrying outside into the gym.
And that’s the exact way you could imagine a team that hasn’t accomplished a certain feat in 12 years would celebrate its big accomplishment.
The Warren East girls’ basketball team, seeded second in the District 14 Tournament, used a late surge and made the crucial plays down the stretch to come away with a hard-fought 57-52 overtime win over third-seeded South Warren in the semifinal round on Wednesday night at South Warren High School.
Not only did the victory move the Lady Raiders into Thursday’s district championship game against top-seeded Bowling Green, but it also booked them their first trip to the Region 4 Tournament since 2008.
“I’m so proud of these girls,” Warren East junior forward Caroline Forrester said. “I’m so proud of everyone involved in this program. Honestly, this is just a big step forward in the direction we want to go with the program, and I’m just so excited to set this example for the up-and-coming Lady Raiders.”
Warren East (18-9 overall) trailed 31-15 at the 6:42 mark of the third quarter but outscored South Warren 42-21 from there to come out on top and extend its season.
Forrester finished with a double-double of 12 points and 21 rebounds for the Lady Raiders, while Lucy Patterson scored 16 points.
“It feels very good because to know we’re actually going to region … like oh my God we’re going to Diddle,” Patterson said. “Like I don’t even know how to explain it. I’ve always wanted to go. I always go watch it, but to just know we get to play in it this year, I’m so happy.”
South Warren, which finished the season 14-17 overall, started fast and jumped out to an 8-0 lead at the 6:18 mark of the first quarter. Warren East put together a 6-0 run to get within 8-6 at the 3:52 mark, but the Spartans answered with a 10-0 surge to go up 18-6 after eight minutes of action.
Lexi Button scored inside to give South Warren a 23-9 lead at the 4:02 mark of the second, but the Lady Raiders used back-to-back baskets from Kelsey Sparks and Forrester to cut their deficit to 25-15 with 1:17 remaining in the half.
The Spartans made a couple of defensive stops in the final minute of the frame and Karson Deaton split a pair of free throws to hold a 26-15 advantage at the break.
“We’ve been in this situation before – quite a few times,” Warren East coach Jenny Neville said of the Lady Raiders’ sluggish half. “This team never gives up. I told ‘em one bucket at a time and our defense drives our offense. We run that 1-3-1 half-court trap and we get turnovers and it drives the offense. It gets our energy up.
“That was the difference in the ball game.”
Taylor Enlow scored the first five points of the second half to make it 31-15 South Warren, but Warren East assembled a 10-0 run – highlighted by a Hailey Hymer 3 – to get within 35-29 entering the fourth quarter.
The Lady Raiders pushed their run to 14-0 to make it 35-33 and soon tied it at 37-all with a Tanaya Bailey layup at the 4:22 mark. Deaton’s triple put South Warren up 44-38, but Patterson scored on a put-back to cut East’s deficit to 44-41 with 2:58 remaining.
Down 47-45, South’s Jess Bush split two straight pairs of free throws to end regulation with the scoreboard even at 47-47 – but Warren East outscored the Spartans 10-5 in overtime to record the victory and book its trip to WKU.
“Coach Neville made some good adjustments to us personnel-wise,” South Warren coach Lane Embry said. “She kind of changed her personnel around and took some risks on some young kids that I thought came in and did a really good job for her. Just sort of changed the game, for sure.
“You’ve gotta be so proud of ‘em. A couple breaks didn’t go our way, but they worked so hard.”
SWHS – 18 8 9 12 5 — 52
WEHS – 6 9 14 18 10 — 57