When Grant King stared down the sidelines at the start of Friday’s game, he saw all his old buddies from Tullahoma. But when King came off the bench for the Pioneers, he only wanted to get buckets.
King, a senior who transferred to Warren County from Tullahoma this fall, sank three 3-pointers in the first half, part of a season-high 11 points, to secure a season sweep against his old pals. The Pioneers took down Tullahoma 67-46, moving the squad to 6-2 this season.
“It felt great, especially against them. It felt like magic,” said King when asked about drilling his first three shots, all 3s on a night where the Pioneers again scorched the nets from distance. “When the third one went in, I thought tonight may be the night. I was feeling good.
“Those are my buddies and they’ve been some of my best friends. Seeing them on the other side of the court is different and weird, but I looked at it as it’s just another opponent and we needed to come out and win.”
King hit a momentum-shifting 3 late in the first quarter after the Pioneer starters had clanged several open shots early. He added two more during the second quarter, part of a period where the Pioneers buried the Wildcats with a hail of bombs from outside.
Warren County entered the period trailing 13-11, but went to the locker rooms 37-25 after sinking six triples in the second quarter.
King’s final 3-pointer, which came right after Eli Jones buried one the possession before, was followed by a loud yell and a point toward the Pioneer student section.
His fire wasn’t lost on his new coach.
“It was personal to him – you could tell that when we played them there,” said Pioneer coach Chris Sullens. “A lot of those guys are his friends, but Grant has a switch he turns on that when he’s on the floor and there’s a guy in another jersey, he’s a guy who really wants to compete. He came out and hit some big shots.”
Irving Espinoza added two 3-pointers in the period as well, part of his game-high 12 points as the Pioneers finished with four players in double figures. Dee Spates and Lacederick ‘Red’ Cox, who hit the final 3 before halftime, had 10 points each.
Warren Couny’s lead never fell below double figures after halftime, allowing Sullens to dig deep into his bench most of the second half. Sophomore Chance Hunter gave the Pioneers their final highlight, draining the team’s 11th 3-pointer right in front of the student section late.
Tullahoma (2-4) built an early lead thanks to errant shooting by the Pioneers. Warren County missed its first five 3-pointers, four coming in the first two minutes. Instead of panicking, the Pioneers continued to hunt open looks, knowing one would fall.
King finally broke the seal, teeing up a corner 3 and draining it in the final minute of the quarter.
For Sullens, it only made sense to lean on what his team does best offensively.
“I thought early, the shots weren’t falling, but we’re the type team if where we watch one fall, a lot start falling. We’re going to continue to shoot them,” said Sullens. “I know a lot of old school people are saying ‘why are they letting them shoot them?’ Well the second and third quarter probably tells you that. Grant hit a couple. Irving gets back in the groove, Eli Jones hits a big one and we’re off to the races.”
After falling at home Monday night, the Pioneers were able to take home back-to-back blowout wins, powered by 22 made 3s. Warren County will try to continue its hot shooting on the road Thursday when it travels to play Livingston Academy. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.