The Pine Tree Lady Pirates positioned themselves for another run at a district championship, beating fellow contender John Tyler in three games Tuesday at the Lions Den. 

Whitney Ford fueled Pine Tree’s attack with 15 kills as the 16th-ranked Lady Pirates won 25-19, 25-12, 25-15. 

Ford finished with five blocks to key Pine Tree’s defense. Ford, a 6-3 middle blocker, received plenty of help from the likes of Jane Ann Blount (nine kills), J’Keisha Evans (nine kills) and Hannah Robey (16 digs).

Pine Tree (25-3, 2-0 in 14-4A) prevailed in a tight first game and never trailed in the final two. Pine Tree picked up its 12th straight win in the process. 

With the score tight through 10 exchanges in the second game, Blount keyed a 6-0 run with three kills as Pine Tree grabbed a commanding 13-6 advantage.

“We knew they were good,” JT head coach Stephanie March-Smith said. “We just need to be focused on executing and staying disciplined. We weren’t disciplined in our defense (or) consistent running the routes.”

The Lady Pirates put any hopes of a comeback to rest early in the third game, jumping in front 8-1 thanks to Ford’s two kills to start the set, followed by consecutive aces from Lauren Cude and a pair of JT hitting errors.

A tall Pine Tree lineup features three six-footers and two other players listed at 5-10.

“I feel like we played good tonight, especially in the first two games,” Pine Tree coach Leven Barker said. “In game three we got a big lead and relaxed a little bit. I felt like we served and received (well). When we’re hitting the ball in and serving the ball in, we’re going to be tough to beat.” 

Jennifer McGowan, a senior outside hitter, performed well in defeat with 11 kills and three blocks. Other JT standouts included Toya Harmon (nine service points), Amanda Theaker (14 digs) and Amicia Williams (five kills, seven digs). 

Pine Tree hits the road Friday for another key match early in district play with Hallsville, which edged the Lady Pirates for the district title a year ago. 

“We’ve got to keep our heads above water,” Barker said, “and keep concentrating.”

The Lady Lions (19-9, 1-1), who placed third in district last year, return to action Friday at Kilgore.

“Everything is about getting better, maturing and touching the ball as much as we can,” March-Smith said. “That’s the only way we can get better.” 

LIONS’ TALES: Pine Tree won the junior varsity match in three games, 17-25, 25-7, 25-18. The loss dropped the JT JV to 1-1 in district play. 

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