By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- The grins on the faces of Warren County's girls basketball team was ample proof that Thursday had been one fine Valentine's Day for the Wildcats.
No chocolates, bouquets of roses or stuffed teddy bears necessary -- a gleaming silver trophy was the object Warren County desired most on Thursday night in the Evergreen District tournament championship game.
It was no gift, though -- the Wildcats treated themselves to this one by rallying for a 50-46 victory over Liberty. That makes two titles in two weeks for Warren County, which last week locked up its first regular-season district title since 1978. That one was sweet, just like this one -- just don't ask the Wildcats' Alesha Adams to choose which is better.
"Those were both of our goals, to be regular-season champs and district tournament champs," Adams said. "Both are very, very good and important to us."
Adams' clutch play in the fourth quarter helped make it happen. Leading by just a point midway through the fourth, the Wildcats got some breathing room when Adams connected on a pull-up jumper in the lane to put her team up 35-32 with 5:47 to play.
Liberty's 6-foot-3 junior forward, Kiana Smith, answered with a basket inside, but Adams delivered again on the next trip down the court with a 3-pointer.
The Eagles came right back with two more baskets by Smith to slice the lead to one.
Warren County (15-8) responded with a high-percentage shot under the goal by Lauren Woodrell, which came off a nifty dish down low from teammate Paige McLachlan.
Liberty (9-13) misfired on its next trip down the floor, and Adams made them pay with another 3-pointer from the corner that pushed the Wildcats' lead to 46-40 with 1:17 to play.
A jumper by Liberty's India Turner shaved the lead back to three at 47-44, but Adams calmly sank a pair of free throws -- interrupted by a Liberty time out -- to essentially seal the win.
Adams finished with a team-high 19 points, with 15 coming in the final two quarters.
Neither team did much in the first quarter, as the Eagles led 8-5 after each squad managed just one field goal.
Smith (19 points, 16 rebounds, six blocks) started to really factor in the second quarter, and her offensive putbacks accounted for much of Liberty's scoring all night.
"She did a great job tonight," Liberty coach Ashton Mitchell said. "She was really moving her feet, trying to stay on the boards as much as possible. That's what we need from her."
The Eagles held a 21-18 lead heading into halftime, but Warren County got a nice momentum boost off the bench when Alyssa Pauley drilled a 3-pointer with seven seconds left in the half.
The Wildcats tied it at 21-all in the third quarter, then fell back behind by five after Turner's 3-pointer made it 28-23.
Warren County got back within two on an Adams trey, then hit enough free throws the rest of the quarter (6 for 10) to take a one-point lead into the fourth.
"We knew it was going to be a difficult game to win," Warren County's Autumn Troxell said. "It's a championship game -- they're not going to take it easy on us. But I think after we realized that we needed to get out stuff together, we really did. We really wanted this bad, so we got our game together and started making our shots and moving our feet."
Troxell scored 11 points for the Wildcats, while Alyson Fox, Vanessa Calevro and Jordyn Beckner all had seven rebounds each to pace Warren County.
For Liberty, Turner chipped in 15 points and Ashley Lane had 10.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>