Start shining up the badge for the Pioneers. There’s a new sheriff in District 6-4A and it’s Warren County after a thrilling win Tuesday in Manchester.
The Pioneer rose to the top of the district standings by defeating Coffee County 63-58 in overtime. It was Warren County’s fourth straight victory and completed a sweep through the first round of district battles, with no win bigger than going on the road and beating the preseason favorites that are coming off a state tournament run last year.
Senior Sawyer Seymour showed up in a big way in the victory, notching 23 points and hitting crucial shots late to power the Pioneers. Treyton Terry added 16 points and four steals, while Nate Elrod had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Coach Danny Fish couldn’t have been prouder of his Pioneers for their effort. His fired-up energy late was contagious, with the Pioneers flying around on the court and a boisterous student section joining the celebration late.
Now sitting at 3-0 and holding pole position for the regular-season crown, Fish knows the job only gets tougher following such a thrilling win.
“Going through the district for the first time and being 3-0 is definitely where we want to be, but now the chess matches begin. We have some good coaches in our league and everyone will start making adjustments. Hopefully we can make the right adjustments while continuing to improve,” said coach Fish. “I am proud of our success over the past couple of weeks but teams don’t hang banners in January.”
Warren County (11-13) pushed all the right buttons late after Coffee County used a strong second quarter to put the Pioneers in a hole.
The Red Raiders were dominant just before halftime, closing the second quarter on a 19-4 run to go to the break ahead 32-26.
The Pioneers slowly chipped away in the second half, but it would take extra time before the group could finally finish off the Red Raiders.
Terry briefly gave Warren County a 37-36 lead in the third with a 3-pointer from the right wing, but Coffee County went into the fourth up 42-39. The Pioneers would fall behind 50-41 with 5:03 left in the final period, but they showed in the late stages that they had learned from so many near misses that plagued the team during a 2-10 start to the season.
“Every game early in the year, we were a couple a plays away and just needed to get better. We needed to learn how to play together and then had to learn how to win games,” said Fish.
The Pioneers mounted their comeback by relying on their defense. Seymour had a pair of key steals to ignite a run, turning the thefts into two trips to the charity stripe on the other end (he hit 3-of-4 at the line). Freshman Devin Fish also had a steal and took a charge during a 60-second span that started the fluster the home team.
By the time Elrod was able to finish through contact on a leaner in the paint and add a free throw, Warren County was back within one possession, 50-47. The Pioneers kept charging from there.
Aaron Templeton had a putback with 2:11 left to cut the deficit to one, then Terry got the Pioneers out front with a run-out layup with 51.6 seconds left. Terry’s acrobatic bucket came while getting fouled and his ensuing free throw completed an 11-0 run and made it 52-50 in favor of the Pioneers.
Cooper Reed answered with a clutch 3-pointer from the corner for the Red Raiders, but Elrod was ready for the answer. The senior forward grabbed an offensive board with 10 seconds left and finished over two defenders to put Warren County up 54-53, but the excitement wouldn’t stop there.
Warren County was whistled for a touch foul with 0.3 seconds to play, giving Dayne Crosslin a chance to win the game. He hit the first free throw, but missed the potential game winner as the game went into overtime.
The Pioneers started slow in the four-minute OT, but finished strong. Elrod tied the game with a pair of free throws with 1:42 left, only to see Reed hit a jumper to push Coffee County back up 58-56.
Seymour delivered the dagger seconds later. The senior was almost on the Coffee County logo at center court when he teed up a triple with one minute left. His aim was true as the shot spun in and put the Pioneer ahead 59-58.
After Coffee County missed a shot to go back up, Seymour got to the ball and was fouled with :29 left. He calmly buried both free throws, extending his team’s advantage to three, 61-58.
The Red Raiders airballed their next shot, sending the Pioneer faithful in a frenzy as they knew one more point would put the game away. Seymour got a chance to deliver the final nail, sinking two more free throws with 5.5 seconds left as Warren County fans roared and the home team’s crowd fell silent.
“It was definitely a heavyweight matchup with each team throwing haymakers. I’m really proud of our guys and the way they stayed composed in a sectional-like environment,” said Fish. “We try our best to control the controllable, stay process oriented and ask the guys to be ready if their number is called. If they do those things, I really feel like we have a chance to win every game no matter who we are playing.”
Warren County will look to extend its district domination Friday at home against Franklin County. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Pioneer scoring – Seymour 23, Terry 16, Elrod 12, Alex van Vuuren 5, Devin Fish 4, Templeton 2, Chase Newby 1