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Tip-in win

Teammates were mobbing Lee Carden, coach Malcolm Montgomery was frantically trying to get his Pioneers back to the bench and every fan in Cannon County gym was waiting to see what would come out of the conference the referees were having with no time left on the clock.
Would Carden’s last-second tip-in count, or would the Pioneers and Lions be heading for overtime? After a short delay, Warren County was greeted with the words it hoped for - count it.
The basket remained on the scoreboard and the Pioneers escaped the Lion’s Den with a 56-54 victory over Cannon County to snap their losing streak.
Warren County (12-16) entered Friday’s non-district game on a three-game slide, but Carden’s last-second heroics lifted the Pioneers in the final seconds for the third time this season.
The Pioneers led 56-54 after a Nick Simmons free throw with :22 left to go, but Cannon County tied the game when hot-shooting Cory Henley was fouled with 6.4 seconds in the game and sunk two free throws.
Without a time-out, Warren County had to take its chances as senior Kendall Rutledge streaked up the court. When he reached the free-throw line and faced a double team, Rutledge kicked to the corner where Simmons stood wide open.
In his favorite spot, Simmons squared to shoot but his shot rolled off the rim as the clocked neared zero. Seemingly out of nowhere, Carden flew in to get a hand on the ball and direct it back to the basket. The ball banked off the glass and in as the Pioneers rushed to Carden in celebration.
Two officials made no movement, while a third came in giving the signal of a made shot. Cannon County’s coach ran to midcourt trying to wave off the basket, which prompted a quick conference by the officials. The brief conference didn’t change the mind of the official as she stayed with her initial ruling of a made basket.
Carden’s shot spoiled senior night for the Lions, who nearly were able to win for the first time against Warren County while under the direction of Montgomery.
The Pioneers came out firing after Cannon County honored five seniors prior to the game. Behind Rutledge and junior Ryan Jennings, Warren County quickly built a double-digit lead.
All of the Pioneers’ field goals in the first quarter came from long range as Rutledge and Jennings each sank two 3-pointers. D’Andre League added a fifth as Warren County led 18-7 before the Lions scored the final four points of the period.
The Lions came charging back in the second quarter, cutting the Pioneer advantage to a single point going into halftime. Dillon Wood was able to keep Warren County in the lead as the junior came off the bench and sank a late 3-pointer as the Pioneers went to locker rooms up 29-28.
The game turned into a see-saw match after halftime with the teams trading the lead five times. The Lions went up by as many as four at one point, but two 3-pointers by Wood and another 3-pointer from Rutledge powered the Pioneers back on top.
Henley closed the quarter with a flurry of points, including a step-back 3-pointer, to give the Lions back the lead at 44-43 entering the final period.
Carden quickly put the Pioneers ahead with a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter, but the game would remain tied for most of the period. Carden did most of the heavy lifting on offense for Warren County, especially when League fouled out with 2:38 to play.
Carden shifted to point guard, where he was able to keep the Pioneers in the game with a patient attack. His free throw with 1:38 remaining made it 53-52 before Simmons made it a two-point game with 22 seconds to go.
Henley, who scored 13 of his game-high 17 points in the second half, hit two pressure-packed free throws in the final seconds to give the Lions hope, but the dreams were squashed when Carden’s buzzer beater propelled the Pioneers to victory.
Rutledge finished with a team-high 13 points for Warren County, followed by 11 for Simmons. Carden added 10 while Wood had a season-high 10 points off the bench.
Warren County hopes to ride the wave of momentum into the final week of the regular season. The Pioneers hit the road Tuesday night to face the Cumberland County Jets in a District 6-AAA showdown. The game is set to start at 7:30 p.m.
Friday’s regular season finale against the Cookeville Cavaliers will be at Charlie Dalton Gym and also is set to start at 7:30 p.m. Before the game, Warren County will honor its three seniors: Rutledge, Simmons and Tucker Smith.


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