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Ready to renew Red Raider rivalry

Any Warren County basketball player or fan looking for a warm reception need not make the journey down Highway 55 tonight. The atmosphere in Coffee County High School gym won’t be pleasant.
Tonight’s District 6-AAA games against the Red Raiders and Lady Raiders should have big ramifications in the district standings, but the battle on the court may not be as interesting as the battle in the stands.
After Coffee County visited Warren County Jan. 4, a night that ended with Pioneer senior Nick Simmons connecting on a three-point play in the waning seconds to give Warren County its first district victory, fans from both sides engaged in a heated discussion on the court that continued outside Charlie Dalton Gym.
The war of words has continued for three weeks, with fans taking to social media sites to promote tonight’s district showdown. Twitter arguments have been heated and Facebook events have been made in preparation for the Red Raiders’ revenge.
The Pioneers enter the game with a phrase “tuckered out,” fitting quite well. Warren County expended plenty of energy Tuesday night in an upset bid against the Cookeville Cavaliers, but the Pioneers fell 65-54. Adding the team’s already thin roster was the absence of senior leading scorer Tucker Smith.
Smith was out with an illness, which could keep him out of tonight’s game as well. Smith was a key factor in a 46-45 win three weeks ago against the Red Raiders as he scored 17 points.
Coach Malcolm Montgomery hopes the effort of his team against Cookeville without Smith, which gave Kendall Rutledge more scoring opportunities on his way to a 24-point performance, continues tonight.
“I thought we played really hard against Cookeville, we just couldn’t make the shot that got us over the hump,” said Montgomery. “Without Tucker, the guys seemed to play inspired ball to make up for his loss. If he’s out for an extended period, we’ll have to keep that level of intensity up.”
While the Pioneers have two district victories and a narrow loss against Cookeville on their résumé, the Lady Pioneers are hoping to reverse their trend of blowouts against District 6-AAA opponents tonight.
Outside of a 34-28 victory last Friday over the Cumberland County Lady Jets, the Warren County girls team has lost its three other district games by a combined total of 89 points. Included in those lopsided losses was being crushed 64-32 by the Cookeville Lady Cavaliers Tuesday night.
While the outcome looked bad on paper, coach Erick Baird thought his Lady Pioneers showed some fight against the league-leading Lady Cavaliers.
“We started off slow, falling down by double digits in the first quarter,” said Baird. “We played them even through the second and third quarters, even cutting the deficit to eight at one point in third. We had a few turnovers that let it slip away and they scored 14 unanswered points in the late stages when I went to the bench.”
Coffee County was a big winner at Charlie Dalton Gym Jan. 4, blowing out the Lady Pioneers 52-24. No Warren County player scored in double figures as the team dropped to 0-8 against the Lady Raiders since the current District 6-AAA format was put in place before the 2009-10 season.
The Lady Pioneers will be looking for that elusive first win tonight when action tips off at 6 p.m.


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