It took two weeks, but local hoops fans will finally get a live look at the WCHS basketball teams.
The Pioneers and Lady Pioneers will be making up for lost time with three home games, starting with Monday’s matchup with Upperman. Dates with Coffee County Tuesday and Tullahoma Friday will follow.
Both teams have started as many expected, with the Pioneers surging to a 4-1 record while the Lady Pioneers are still looking for their first win, sitting currently at 0-4.
Chris Sullens entered the year confident this group could rival the 2017-18 team which made a run to the region semifinals and won 23 games. It’s easy to see why when the Pioneers take the court.
Weapons are everywhere offensively.
Opposing teams already know about CJ Taylor, a returning all-district honoree who averaged over 16 points per game last year. Taylor is just as good this year, especially when his streaky outside jumper is falling, but he won’t have to carry as heavy of a load this season. Help has arrived.
Lacedrick Cox turned it on at the end of last season, earning an all-district nod of his own, but he’s looked like a completely different player since taking the court two weeks ago. Cox called himself a 3-point corner specialist last year, but he’s expanded from the small role he was more than happy to fill just a season ago.
The guy everybody calls ‘Red’ is bodying people in the paint, beating opponents off the dribble and still sinking open threes when the defense falls asleep. Just as impressively, he’s taken his defense to another level, becoming a true wing stopper that scares ball handlers.
Blackman transfer Dee Spates is starting to find his way as well. The guard Sullens calls “the quickest player I’ve ever coached,” has thrived in a sixth-man role, entering and blitzing opponents at every turn. Spates’ speed is truly eye-catching in the open court, when he’s zipping by defenders and getting to the hole for his patented floater.
Add in Irving Espinoza’s ability to catch fire from the outside and the Pioneers are a threat to put up 70 points every night.
Fans coming Monday will get a treat – the Bees are going to be the best team Warren County has played thus far. Armed with a group of solid upperclassmen and a 6-foot-6 Serbian center, the Pioneers will get an early look at a potential state contender (albeit in Class AA).
The Lady Pioneers probably will be facing their best opponent Monday too, but it’s probably not coming at the best time for them.
Anthony Lippe is still trying to find a combination that can consistently put the ball in the basket. Patience will be needed with the Lady Pioneer program, especially with the team’s biggest nucleus of talent being in the freshman class.
It’s going to be an exciting night when the ball finally goes into the air at Charlie Dalton Gym Monday.