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FT struggles doom WCHS
Raven Lewandowski.jpg
Raven Lewandowski moves the ball during Friday's nailbiter against White County. The Pioneers fell 76-71 to the Warriors on a night where five seniors were honored. - photo by Jeffery Simmons

Predicting what Warren County will be working on in practice before the district tournament won’t be hard. The Pioneers may shoot 1,000 free throws before their next game.

Struggles at the charity stripe sunk Warren County Friday night, when White County came into Charlie Dalton Gym and won 76-71.

The Pioneers shot 9-of-21 from the line, including missing five free throws in the fourth quarter when the team’s lead slipped away. It was something that Chris Sullens lamented after playing the Warriors to a standstill on senior night.

“We have to take advantage of opportunities when we have the chance,” said Sullens, whose team finished the regular season 15-12 overall and 2-6 in district. “We played hard and had a chance. I think we executed our plan well. They just hit some shots late and we didn’t.”

Sophomore CJ Taylor scored 21 points for the Pioneers, who had the lead with under three minutes to play. White County didn’t take the lead for good until Kade Clark’s three-point play with 2:47 to go.

Grant Slatten, who netted a game-high 23 points, added two free throws 13 seconds later after a Pioneer turnover that made it 70-66 with 2:34 to play.

Warren County still had its chances late, but Taylor missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 with 2:03 left. He redeemed himself with 1:11 to play, drilling a 3-pointer that made it 71-69. 

The Warriors opened the door by splitting free throws on the following possession, giving Warren County a chance to tie with under a minute left. Senior Sloan Seymour got a clean look from the top of the key, but it missed the mark.

Any chance of a Pioneer comeback was dashed when Lacedrick Cox missed two free throws with 23.3 seconds left and his team trailing 74-71.

Seymour, one of five seniors honored, was proud of his team’s effort on senior night, even if it didn’t win. 

“I’m glad we fought. I really enjoyed the crowd and the support, but we can’t change the outcome,” said Seymour. “I wish we would’ve won. It’s been a long journey for our class.”

Seymour, Ben Clark, Raven Lewandowski, Ethan Smith and Brad Caten were all honored before the game. The seniors also earned the start, building an early lead as Clark fed Lewandowski for a layup and Caten wiggled free for a putback.

It started a see-saw matchup which saw the teams trade the lead over 25 times throughout the night. Warren County had its biggest lead, 34-28, with 1:07 to play in the first half following an Eli Jones 3-pointer. 

White County erased it in seconds, though the Pioneers were still able to go into halftime ahead 36-34 on a streaking layup by Smith in the final seconds of the half.

Smith was one of four Pioneers in double figures Friday, finishing with 10 points. Cox and Jones had 13 points apiece, combining to connect on seven 3-pointers.

Lewandowski added nine points in the loss.

The Pioneers will try to earn their fourth straight region bid this week. Warren County will face Rhea County in the play-in game. More details on the game time will be added to the Standard website when they are made available.