Night-after-night, the Lady Pioneers seem to be facing off against some of the state’s best teams. Tuesday’s opponent may be the best of the bunch.
Stone Memorial blasted Warren County 67-34 at Charlie Dalton Gym, the second time the Lady Panthers have roughed up the Lady Pioneers. Stone Memorial won the previous meeting in Crossville 66-43, with both losses coming during Warren County’s current 11-game skid.
The Lady Pioneers have now surrounded their lone two wins – both coming in the Smoky Mountain Classic in December – with 11-game losing streaks. Warren County also lost its first 11 games of the season.
Coach Anthony Lippe knew when he took over this year would be difficult. Losing six seniors and over 80 percent of the team’s scoring was one challenge, but the bigger one may have been the schedule.
Stone Memorial (22-2, 6-0) is one of three district leaders the Lady Pioneers have faced this season, with Upperman (22-3) and Coffee County (22-3) also proving to be the best in their districts. Warren County’s opponents – aside from the out-of-state teams played in Gatlinburg - are currently 228-89 this season and the Lady Pioneers are the lone team in District 6AAA with less than 17 wins.
“We just have to keep working. This is the toughest part of the year. Teams have all the film they want on you and they're going to take away what you do best,” said Lippe. “We watched a lot of film to look at the mistakes we continue to make and we’re trying to improve in those areas.
“Regardless of who we are playing, our team knows and understands my expectations for them. We haven’t met those expectations the last two games and that’s on me.”
Warren County (2-22, 0-6) fell behind 42-11 by halftime Tuesday to the Lady Panthers, the second straight game the Lady Pioneers were effectively done by the break. In the previous game against White County, the Lady Pioneers trailed by 22 at halftime.
The Lady Pioneers battled near the end against Stone Memorial after the mercy rule was enacted, giving some hope the team may be turning the corner.
“The message going forward is that we are better than what we have shown the last couple of games. We’re on a mission to show our fans and community we will continue to fight,” said Lippe.
The Kelsey sisters led the Lady Pioneers in scoring Tuesday, with Brielee scoring eight and Brienne adding six. Savannah Winfree scored her first career varsity points, finishing with four.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Friday’s home game. The Lady Pioneers will face the 21-3 Rhea County Lady Eagles at 6 p.m.