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District struggles mounting
Wyatt Wilson 1.jpg
Wyatt Wilson and the Pioneers have hit a skid during District 6AAA play. Warren County is 1-3 at the midway point after losing 83-49 Tuesday in White County. - photo by Jeffery Simmons

The words both Chris Sullens and Shea Panter hope to avoid hearing every year in February are beginning to be tossed around. Both Warren County High School basketball teams are trending toward the district tournament’s dreaded "play-in game," the result of finishing in the bottom-two spots in the regular season.

The Pioneers, after Tuesday’s 83-49 loss at White County, are currently 1-3 in District 6AAA play. The Lady Pioneers are still winless in the district, falling 70-32 to the Warriorettes on the road.

If either wants to avoid having to fight for their season’s survival in the play-in games, they’ll have to have a quick change in the final four games. The schedule closes with a stretch of district games, including Friday’s trip to Stone Memorial – the third of six straight rivalry matchups.

The Pioneers lost 54-50 at home to Stone Memorial three weeks ago, the last game Sloan Seymour played. Since losing the senior to a leg injury, the Pioneers are 2-2 and are trending down after back-to-back losses by a combined 53 points.

“I think we have started to show some effects of not being at full strength and also our youth,” said Sullens. “To say we are pleased with the way we have played the past couple of games would not be accurate. We expect more from our program and players.”

After losing several key contributors from last year’s 23-win team, most expected the Pioneers to take a step back this season. Instead, Warren County started the season 8-2 with some impressive victories.

The Pioneers are just 6-7 since losing at Smyrna and have trailed in double figures for most of their last two games. Sullens points the finger for his team’s struggles at himself.

 “I’m upset with myself because I don’t think we have structured our practices to show our guys what it takes to win in the district. With all the scouting and preparation, I think we got caught up in disguising what we are doing instead of executing what we do,” said Sullens. “We went back to tough, hard-nosed practices Wednesday where if you aren’t all-in, you get exposed. We’re at the halfway point and we have work to do to be on the level of the top teams.”

The Lady Pioneers are also in a spiral since starting district play. Warren County has lost its four district games by a combined 98 points and doesn’t have a single player averaging double figures in those games.

Seniors Grace Rains and Tyra Wright average 12.0 and 10.4 points per game this season, respectively. In district games, those totals have dropped to 6.5 and 9.0 points as teams have sold out to stop the Lady Pioneer post attack.

The Lady Pioneers have also dedicated themselves on the practice floor, hoping some soul searching will benefit the group in the next four games.

"We had some real good conversations in practice Wednesday," said Panter. "As a team, we decided this is it. What do we have to lose?

"We all need to come togther, believe in oursevles and each other and finish this out strong."

Friday’s games at Stone Memorial are scheduled to go on as planned despite Warren County schools closing. Tip-off for the girls game is set for 6 p.m.

In other District 6AAA action, Cookeville will take on Rhea County Friday night. The Cavaliers will be putting their unblemished record on the line against the Eagles while both girls teams enter with 2-2 district records.

White County will be off from district games this weekend, but will play host to Cumberland County Saturday.