It’s survival weekend for the Warren County basketball teams.
The Pioneers and Lady Pioneers will each take part in the Region 3AAA tournament and will need road wins to continue their seasons.
The Pioneers, coming off a 67-53 victory over Cookeville in the consolation game of the district tournament, will travel Saturday to take on the Walker Valley Mustangs. The Lady Pioneers will also be heading south, with a date with Bradley Central on the docket Friday.
In the boys matchup, Warren County (22-7) enters with a better record than the 17-15 Mustangs, but are the lower seed due to Walker Valley finishing higher in its district tournament. The Mustangs finished second in District 5AAA, falling 81-36 to state-ranked Cleveland in the finals.
Even after a 45-point loss, coach Chris Sullens has warned his team not to overlook its next opponent.
“Walker Valley has gotten better throughout the year. Coach Bob Williams gets the most out of his groups,” said Sullens. “They are peaking at the right time and have plenty of experience in these type of games.”
The Mustangs lean heavily on their guard tandem of Kolton Gipson and Jordan Munck. Gipson scored 27 in Walker Valley’s overtime upset of East Hamilton in the district tournament. Munck followed with 22 as the duo did the heavy lifting in a 62-60 victory.
Warren County is also coming in on a high note.
Getting junior Sloan Seymour back was a big boost in Saturday’s blowout of Cookeville. Raven Lewandowski has also worked his way into the rotation with strong defensive play and a season-high eight points against the Cavaliers.
Being whole and playing their best basketball at tournament time was something Sullens has stressed all season.
“We have prepared for these games all season. We wanted to make region and go into it playing our best,” said Sullens. “We will have to play our best to beat Walker Valley on their floor.”
The Lady Pioneers will need a Herculean effort to advance against one the state’s best teams.
Bradley Central is 28-0, ranked No. 2 in the state and has won 60 of its last 61 games. The Bearettes were dominant in their most recent outing, downing East Hamilton 73-41 in the District 5AAA championship game. It was the eighth straight year Bradley Central won its district.
This version of the Bearettes is led by future Kentucky Lady Wildcat Rhyne Howard. ESPN’s No. 31 ranked player in the Class of 2018 had 41 points in the district championship game and is firing on all cylinders.
Though Howard won’t be the first top player the Lady Pioneers have faced – Upperman’s Akira Levy is also ranked nationally by ESPN – she may be the best.
Coach Shea Panter is aware of the challenges of facing Bradley Central and its star.
“They won their district pretty handily. We will have to put together four quarters to hang with Bradley Central,” said Panter.
The Lady Pioneers aren’t backing down from the challenge though.
“This is great for our program to learn how to win and win at all costs. Playing in the region shows the girls there is basketball outside our district and you have to bring it each night,” said Panter.
Both games this weekend are set to start at 6 p.m. Central.