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Taking aim at Cannon

Winning on the same night has been a big problem for the Warren County High School basketball teams. The feat has only occurred twice since opening night. The Lady Pioneers and Pioneers each beat Cumberland County Jan. 18 and each team came up with wins Dec. 14 when Cannon County visited Charlie Dalton Gym.
The Lions and Lady Lions will be the opposition tonight as both Warren County basketball teams hope to end three-game losing streaks.
The Warren County boys team, which is 11-16 overall and 2-4 in District 6-AAA, defeated the Lions 65-55 in the last meeting, but one of the linchpins in the Pioneer victory that night may not be in uniform tonight.
Senior Tucker Smith, who has missed the last three Warren County losses due to an illness, may not be available tonight in Woodbury. Smith is averaging a team-high 14.2 points this season in 24 games.
Smith scored 17 points against Cannon County in the previous meeting this year and he had his season-high scoring night last year in Woodbury with a 20-point outing.
In Smith’s absence, seniors Kendall Rutledge and Nick Simmons and junior Ryan Jennings have picked up their play. Rutledge scored a career-high 24 points against Cookeville last Tuesday, the first game Smith was absent. He has followed it with double-digit games against Coffee County and White County as the senior has connected on 12 3-pointers in the three-game span.
Touches have increased for Simmons on the low block since Smith went out and the senior center has responded with big games. After scoring in double figures in five of the team’s first 23 games, Simmons has scored in double figures the last four games. Simmons matched his season high with 15 points against Coffee County last Friday.
Jennings was inserted into the starting lineup when Smith was sidelined, moving into a guard spot while junior Lee Carden moved to forward.
After a slow night against Cookeville where he scored three points in his first start, Jennings has followed with 12 points against Coffee County and 10 against White County. The smooth-shooting lefty has added an additional outside threat as he hit two 3-pointers in each of the last two games.
While the Pioneers know the Cannon County Lions will be looking to end a long losing streak to their border rival, the Lady Lions will be even more motivated to beat the visiting Lady Pioneers.
The Warren County girls team ended Cannon County’s perfect season in December, costing the Lady Lions a chance to move to No. 1 in the state AA rankings. Shortly after, Cannon County ascended to the top spot as the Lady Lions are currently 22-3 overall.
As monumental as the win was at home, a victory Lady Pioneer coach called the “biggest of his career,” winning tonight would be one of the biggest upsets in the program’s history.
The Lady Pioneers enter tonight’s game at 13-14 overall and losers of their last three games. Warren County has gone 6-10 since beating Cannon County and most of the losses have been blowouts. In those 10 losses, Warren County has been beaten by an average of 18.5 points per game.
If the Lady Pioneers want to win tonight, or at least keep the game close, sophomore Bri Melton will need to keep up her overall play while the team keeps putting on the clamps on defense.
Melton has scored in double figures in five of the last six games as the sophomore shooting guard leads the team with an average of 10.6 points per game.
Melton has been able to find teammates as well lately as her passing seems to open up the Lady Pioneer offense. Jessie Newby has been a big beneficiary of the assists as she has found room to work in the paint.
The big question will be if the team’s defense, which has allowed only 38.5 points per game in its last two outings, can contain junior Lady Lion guard Abbey Sissom.
Sissom, who has committed to MTSU, scored three points in the loss in December, but she has shown the ability to score in bunches. Sissom scored 43 points in the Sun Drop Romp championship game at Charlie Dalton Gym when Cannon County defeated District 6-AAA leader Cookeville.
Tonight’s game will begin at 6 p.m. with girls action. The boys are set to start at 7:30 p.m.

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