Somewhere between the end of the second quarter and the start of the third, the Warren County High School boys basketball team is forgetting how to play.
For the second straight game, a big run by a Pioneer opponent in the third quarter was enough to change the course of the game. On Friday night, Cumberland County outscored the Pioneers 16-1 in the third to coast to a 68-54 victory.
Warren County (12-11) suffered a similar fate three nights earlier in DeKalb County. After playing the Tigers to a draw in the first half, the Pioneers were outscored 24-2 in the third quarter and ended up losing by 28 points.
The Pioneers went to halftime in Cumberland County trailing 26-23, but the deficit was 18 by the time Warren County relocated its offense in the fourth quarter.
Even 30 points in the final eight minutes weren’t enough as the Pioneers’ third-quarter struggles were too much to overcome.
Warren County was hoping to end a three-game losing streak on Friday when it took the court in Crossville. Seeking its second District 6-AAA road win, the Pioneers started out in impressive fashion.
Reprising his role as sixth man after missing the game against DeKalb County due to illness, senior Hunter Daniel didn’t take long to shake off the rust. Daniel scored five points in the first quarter, including hitting a 3-pointer on his first shot.
Warren County rode the energy of having its leading scorer back on the court to a 13-11 first-quarter advantage.
The momentum started shifting toward the home team in the second quarter. Warren County couldn’t contain Jet point guard John Bilbrey, as the shifty guard scored seven points in the period.
Three 3-pointers from the Jets sent the Pioneers into the locker rooms trailing by three, but the second-half adjustments didn’t seem to work out for Warren County.
The Jets continued to connect from the outside when the second half began. Three more 3-pointers put the Pioneers in a double-digit hole as coach Malcolm Montgomery declined to use a time-out to stop the spurt.
Thomas Locke sank a free throw in the third quarter, but it turned out to be the only point for the Pioneers as the team has now been outscored 64-13 in the third quarter its last three games.
Trailing 42-24 entering the fourth quarter, the Pioneers finally found their range. Warren County couldn’t miss in the fourth quarter as the team poured in 30 points.
Senior guard Jacob Reagan led the way. After being held scoreless the first three quarters, Reagan anchored the Warren County offense with nine points in the fourth quarter.
Junior Nick Simmons scored six points in the final period as well, but the Pioneers couldn’t keep the Jets off the free-throw line to mount a serious comeback.
Cumberland County hit 22 free throws in the fourth quarter to hold on for a 14-point victory.
Daniel finished with 15 points to lead the Pioneers and up his scoring average to 11.9 points per game. Reagan’s nine points were the second most for Warren County.
Along with losing its fourth straight game and falling to 1-2 in District 6-AAA, Warren County also suffered some bad luck against the Jets.
Already without starting forward Tucker Smith due to a shoulder injury, the Pioneers saw sophomore Lee Carden leave the game against the Jets with an apparent broken nose. There’s no word on how long the injury could affect the team’s back-up shooting guard.
The Pioneers will need all hands on deck this week as the team plays host to a pair of District 6-AAA games at Charlie Dalton Gym.
Warren County will welcome the Cookeville Cavaliers on Tuesday night and Coffee County will make the short trip to McMinnville on Friday.
Both games tip off at 7:30 p.m. at Charlie Dalton Gym.