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Surveying season

All but one coach will be doing the same thing Warren County High School girls basketball coach Erick Baird did over the weekend. Following a season-ending loss in the District 6-AAA play-in game last Thursday, coach Baird used the weekend to reflect on his team’s performance, review his returning roster and look forward to next season.
The Lady Pioneers finished the season 13-18, though a seven-game losing streak to end the year put a damper on what looked to be a promising campaign that was highlighted by an early winning streak and huge upset of Cannon County.
In November, Baird attended the District 6-AAA media day where his team was picked to finish last in the five-team district. Questions surrounded the program, especially on how the Lady Pioneers would replace 1,500-point scorer Lauren Wilkinson and college-bound point guard Bree Smith.
The Lady Pioneers answered many of the questions in the first two weeks, starting the season 4-0 by mixing in an opportunistic offense with a stifling defense. By the time the Lady Pioneers upset the Cannon County Lionettes 39-36 in December, a win coach Baird called the biggest of his career, the team was 7-4.
After a three-game losing streak dropped Warren County to 7-7, the Lady Pioneers reeled off five wins in six games while playing in the Sun Drop Romp and Wildcat Classic tournaments over Christmas break. It would the last successful stretch for the Lady Pioneers as the team finished the season losing 10 of its last 11 games.
Coach Baird knows the late-season streak took a lot of momentum away from the year, but with it being considered a rebuilding season from the start, there were still positives.
“I thought we had a successful season with the fact that we lost a lot with the 2012 seniors,” said Baird. “We were a layup away from accomplishing our main goal of making regionals. Hard work wins ball games and our kids stepped up to the plate.”
The Lady Pioneers nearly made it three straight years with a regional berth last week, but Jessie Newby’s game-tying layup was waved off on a charge in the final seconds as Warren County eventually lost 55-51 to Cumberland County.
Having Newby, who scored a season-high 17 points in the last loss, returning to join All-District 6-AAA performers Bri Melton and Camerie Martin gives the Lady Pioneers hope the team can continue to build on its success.
With the district making a change for next year - Coffee County leaves while Stone Memorial and Rhea County join - coach Baird feels like the chance to make a splash next season is there.
“The new district provide us with a lot of opportunity,” said Baird. “Right now it looks wide open and it is important we step up to the plate in the offseason to prepare.”
Senior posts Rachel Nokes and Megan Dishman won’t be around to make the move with the Lady Pioneers next year. The two, who are both valedictorians, depart the program as one of the most successful senior classes in recent history. They were part of nearly 50 wins during their careers, including one coach Baird believes has changed the perception of his program.
“Our senior class won 49 games and that has not been done in a while,” said Baird. “One of those was the Cannon County win, which put us on the map and let others know that we were not just a speed bump on the schedule.”
Warren County will begin offseason conditioning after the spring dead period and tryouts will be held in May.

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