Nobody can keep the Pioneers from making big leaps on the hardwood. Warren County seemingly improves every time it steps on the court.
The local Warren County Pioneers had their best showing yet over the weekend, placing fourth in the Tennessee Special Olympics basketball tournament. The unified group of Pioneers faced off with Sycamore, Harpeth and Williamson County last weekend and showed they had all the skills to compete with the best in the state.
Already one of the best teams in the region (Warren County represented Area 9 - the Upper Cumberland), the Pioneers showed over three games they are one of the state's best teams too. The matchups were all 5-on-5 games, one of the first times the group of Pioneers had played in more structured games.
"The exposure was great and we played so much better at state than we did at regionals," said coach Loree DeArmond, who noted her team was playing 5-on-5 for the first time. "We played a lot of teams that had experience together and have been together since they were 8 or 9 years old. It was an awesome experience."
The athletes starring for the Pioneers were Wiley and John Madewell, Genaro Sanchez, Dustin Walker, Michael Brock, Jake Fann, Rudy DeArmond, Sydney Matthews, Jake Whitman and Jaycie Hodges.
It was a true group effort for the Pioneers, who upped their scoring at the state level and started to find a rhythm on both sides of the court.
Sanchez splashed home some triples, Whitman was also able to find the range from deep, Fann worked his way to the basket for two buckets, Brock and Whitman made sure to clean the glass as the team's top rebounders and the Madewells were defensive dynamos for the Pioneers.
Hodges and DeArmond, former local stars on high school teams at Boyd and WCHS, respectively, also played a big part in keeping the team organized and running smoothly.
"We did a lot of things better in the state tournament than we had done before. We seem to get better every time we play," said coach DeArmond.
It was a big-time showing for Warren County, which is only getting started as it looks to grow its team against most unified competition going forward.
"It's been important to play the unified games where everybody is on the same playing field," said coach DeArmond. "We're really excited. We have a lot more unified sporting events coming up and I think there's going to be even more sports added by the fall."
The Pioneers will be turning their focus to other sports for the spring (track, bocee, tennis, swimming and weightlifting are all offered for competition at the state level), but it won't be long before they are scorching the nets again in hopes of even more state success.
Fourth place was just a stepping stone for the Pioneers. Next year, Warren County wants to bring home the championship.