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Simmons Says - Gritty win for Pioneers

Legendary Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has given a slew of one-liners over the years, but none seemed to resonate more than his timeout speech in 2012.

While playing Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, Popovich took a timeout to challenge his team. 

“I want some nasty,” Popovich said to his team, urging them to play more physical and aggressive.

Chris Sullens may not have given his Pioneers the same speech before Tuesday’s game, but it wasn’t far off either. 

Monday’s blowout loss to Upperman was a gut-check for Warren County, a rout where the Pioneers didn’t seem to want to accept the challenge of matching up with the big, brawny Bees. Upperman finished with more steals, more blocks and more deflections. The Bees simply outworked the Pioneers for the win.

Sullens didn’t want to see a repeat Tuesday in a rivalry game against Coffee County.

“I challenged our kids and staff in the locker room. If we’re going to be successful and get to where we want to go, we have to have some grit. We took it personal and they accepted the challenge. They didn’t like what happened against Upperman,” said Sullens.

It showed from the jump against the Red Raiders.

There won’t be a game this year where Warren County is bigger, or likely stronger, than its opponent. Tuesday was no different as Coffee County trotted out two large posts and 6-foot-6 swingman Jaylon Wooten.

When the Red Raiders’ top option looked across the court, Dante Elam was waiting. Elam, who may be 5-foot-11, hounded Wooten at every turn. 

The whole Pioneer defense was ready to get after it and get into somebody. Their aggression helped cause 10 early turnovers and spilled over to offense, where the Pioneers grabbed nine offensive rebounds in the first half.

It wasn’t about skill or athleticism. The Pioneers just wanted it more and they went out and took it.

One defining play was late in the second quarter. Aiden Cummings was surrounded by four Red Raiders following a Pioneer miss, but the big man was able to corral the miss. Despite the defense racking at him, Cummings powered through the contact for a bucket as the whistle blew.

Two teammates were right there when Cummings let out a roar, punching his chest and pumping him up. He added another 3-point play late in the fourth, which was followed by a frustration technical by the Red Raiders after another bruising basket.

By then, the Pioneers had pounded their rival into submission. It got nasty.