Like the rest of the Pioneers, Aiden Cummings had a gutcheck last week at Stone Memorial.
The Panthers punked the Pioneers, leaving coach Chris Sullens questioning if his Warren County team had what it took to compete in District 6AAA. Sullens found out quickly his junior post was ready to lay it on the line.
Cummings busted out with a career-high 27 points Tuesday to help the Pioneers rock Rhea County 74-51. It was the team’s first district win, which also snapped a four-game losing streak.
“We made no adjustments as a staff other than one practice to let them know we were not satisfied with how we played last time we hit the floor,” said Sullens. “We asked them what type of competitor they consider themselves to be. We asked each one of them, ‘What is inside the jersey you’re wearing?’
“True competitors don’t make excuses. They don’t have reasons why it didn’t go well. I asked them ‘Do you want to play or do you want to compete’ because there’s a huge difference. They responded with a compete answer.”
Cummings was the ring leader of the complete 180-degree change from last Friday. The junior owned the paint, scoring at will at the rim while also cleaning the glass. Cummings also corralled a career-best 14 rebounds (seven offensive) to record his second double-double this season.
“Aiden has just made strides in understanding how he needs to play. He was on the boards, moving his feet defensively, taking charges and making quick, aggressive moves offensively,” said Sullens. “He’s gotten a taste now and I believe he is only going to get better. I was proud of him and all our guys.”
It was the second time in three games Cummings had recorded a career-best scoring night. Last week, Cummings pummeled the White County defense for 24 points.
Currently, Cummings is averaging 19 points and seven boards in district play through three contests. Those lead the Pioneers in both categories, while Dee Spates leads the team with four assists a game in District 6AAA play.
Irving Espinoza added 15 points in the victory, his first double-digit scoring outing in seven games. The senior found his stroke early, hitting four first-half triples.
CJ Taylor added 11, followed by Spates with seven.
Sophomore Chance Hunter scored all six of his points on 3-pointers, including catching with 0.4 left in the third quarter and getting a friendly roll to put the Pioneers up 53-39 heading into the fourth.
Warren County will play its first home district game Friday against Cookeville. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.