JASPER, Tenn. -- For 20 nervous minutes, Keta Robinette lay crumpled on the floor, her immediate future and Marion County's hopes of winning its first girls' district basketball championship in 10 years uncertain.
Since the first game tipped off this season, the junior has led the tri-state area in scoring as the key to a Lady Warriors team that starts two sophomores and two juniors, dominating District 6-A.
"Everything we do runs through Keta," Marion coach Randy Ellis said. "She's taught our team how to win."
The 5-foot-6 Robinette has played all five positions, averaging 23 points, eight rebounds and 4.5 steals per game in leading the Lady Warriors to a 12-5 start.
But midway through the third quarter of last Friday's game at Whitwell, Robinette slipped on a wet spot and crashed to the floor. The sound of her hip hitting the court was like a gunshot and her left leg bent awkwardly behind her, sending teammates and opponents scattering away. As Ellis trotted to her side, he feared the worst.
"Just the sound of her hitting the ground and the reaction of everyone on the court when they saw how she landed, I was certain she had broken her leg or gotten hurt really bad," Ellis said. "Everybody ran away from her and just had this look on their fact like they saw something terrible.
"My heart was pounding out of my chest. She was yelling and I was immediately worried for her and thinking about the team and the rest of the season."
The game was delayed until an ambulance arrived, and Marion's other players were unable to maintain their composure. Their thoughts still with their fallen leader, the Lady Warriors let a double-digit lead slip away and lost by two points -- their first district defeat of the season.
For all the anxious moments after her fall, X-rays were negative. After sitting out one game, Robinette returned Tuesday, fighting through a noticeable limp to finish with 27 points and nine rebounds. She made four of five 3-point shots.
"Right after I hit the floor, I was already telling myself I would be fine and I would be back," Robinette said. "It was a little scary, but as soon as the doctors said I would just be sore for a little while, I wanted to get right back in the gym.
"We've got some pretty big games coming up, and I knew I had to get back out there."
A win by Marion in the rematch with Whitwell next week would give the Lady Warriors their first regular-season district title since 1999, but the program was expected to take great strides after Robinette joined the varsity. She had already built a reputation as a player who could score from anywhere on the court by middle school, but typical of most teenage girls she worried more about being liked than she did using her natural abilities as a scorer once she made the jump to high school competition.
"At first I really wasn't that comfortable scoring so much," said Robinette, who averaged 16 points as a freshman and 19 last year. "I was worried that people would be mad at me, or wouldn't like a young player to be shooting so much.
"But now when the game is close, that's when I get really competitive and want the ball in my hands. I'm not worried about what happened. I'm still a little sore, but that's not going to stop me from being out there."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...