A black cloud will forever hang over the finale of the Warren County High School boys basketball team’s game against the Van Buren County Eagles on Friday night.
The Pioneers and Eagles were locked in a tightly-contested game that went into overtime before two technical fouls sent Pioneer coach Malcolm Montgomery and his team storming to the locker room with 2:08 to play.
With Warren County in the locker room, the referees had no other choice than to call the game and declare Van Buren County the victors as the home team led 61-56 when the game was suddenly halted. For more details on coach Montgomery’s walkout, see page 1-A.
Before the sudden ending, the Pioneers and Eagles battled toe-to-toe in a game that couldn’t finish in the first 32 minutes.
Neither team led by more than five points in the first half before Warren County built an 11-point advantage in the third quarter.
Sophomore Lee Carden and seniors Hunter Daniel and Hunter Adams were responsible for giving the Pioneers some breathing room in the third quarter.
Carden began the second half by banking in a 3-pointer to give Warren County a 30-29 advantage. Adams then scored by getting behind the Eagle defense for an easy layup following a missed 3-pointer. Another defensive stand led to Daniel drilling a 3-pointer as Warren County led 35-29.
Following another failed Eagle possession, Adams scored on a layup set up by a great bounce pass from Jacob Reagan to make the advantage eight and force the Van Buren County coach to call a time-out.
The Eagles countered with a score, but Adams followed it up with a free throw and a layup off a pass from Daniel to make it 40-31. Daniel then drilled a 3-pointer to respond to a free throw by the Eagles to give Warren County its first double-digit lead.
Mitchell McCorkle and Tucker Smith added layups near the end of the third, but a late foul cost the Pioneers three points going into the fourth.
For the second time in the game, a Warren County player fouled an Eagle while shooting a 3-pointer. Justin Ware’s foul came with 1.5 seconds left in the third and the Van Buren County player connected on all three freebies to make it 47-39 entering the fourth.
Van Buren County put its sweat and blood into a fourth-quarter comeback to tie the game and send it to overtime.
The blood spill came on a fourth-quarter incident when Pioneer post Nick Simmons accidentally caught a Van Buren County player with an elbow while fighting for a rebound. Action continued with the Eagles ending up with a layup to slice the lead to 52-37, but an extensive clean-up effort followed as blood was tracked all over the court.
After a nearly 15-minute delay, action resumed and Warren County tried to kill the clock to hold on to a slim lead down the stretch.
The Pioneers took two minutes off the clock running a weave to keep Van Buren County off balance. Warren County’s stall tactic backfired when the team’s offense went missing over the final five minutes and Van Buren County stormed into the lead.
It took two free throws from Carden with 51.3 seconds left to send the game to overtime, but Carden also missed a chance to end the game in regulation.
Carden, a sophomore who started his first varsity game Friday, took the final shot in regulation after a play devised for Reagan was stopped by the Van Buren County offense.
Reagan tried to weave through the heart of the defense, but with four defenders converging Reagan looked to the corner for Carden.
Carden got off a 3-pointer just before the buzzer, but the ball kicked off the back of the iron and the game went into overtime.
In extra time, Van Buren County got off to a quick start. The Eagles got a 3-pointer to start the period before Daniel cut the lead back to one with a floater in the lane that touched every part of the rim before falling in.
Another basket by Van Buren County, this time on a putback following a missed shot, moved the lead back to three before the controversial ending stopped action with 2:08 to play.
The loss moves Warren County’s record to 3-3 overall.
Adams and Daniel led the Pioneers with 13 points apiece. Simmons and Carden scored six points each.
The Pioneers are off this week but return to action Tuesday, Dec. 13 at home against the Middle Tennessee Heat.
The game is the second scheduled “Whiteout” game, where students are encouraged to bring toilet paper to toss on the court after the first made basket by the boys team.