There has been zero time to waste for coach Danny Fish. If he wanted the Pioneers to play his style, the group had to hit the court running – literally. It’s still a work in progress for the WCHS boys basketball team, but its first-year coach is starting to see some early growth despite starting 0-3.
Warren County is still searching for its first victory after losing to Ravenwood 68-55 (OT) and Bradley Central 58-41 Saturday in the Hall of Champions games at Manchester. Coupled with a tough road loss last week to Walker Valley, the Pioneers have stumbled out of the gate, but coming up short three times doesn't mean zero success in Fish’s eyes.
“I think we just keep grinding, knowing our better days are ahead of us,” said Fish after the losses Saturday. “I think we are getting the buy-in with the ‘we over me’ philosophy. We've just got to be more efficient with what we do.”
Some cohesion is already starting to translate to the court. The Pioneers flashed their potential at the end of regulation in the loss to Ravenwood, including a precision play to take the lead.
Senior Sawyer Seymour could have taken a forced shot after putting up a game-high 18 points for the Pioneers, but instead made an unselfish extra pass to push the Pioneers ahead 52-50. Aaron Templeton, a sophomore guard called into big minutes Saturday, back-cut for a layup with 1:01 to go that nearly was the difference maker.
Instead, Ravenwood was able to get a layup to tie with :30 left and flustered the Pioneers with heavy halfcourt pressure in overtime to run away with the victory.
Warren County built a 20-6 lead in the matchup with the Raptors, making a living in the left corner. Alex van Vuuren nailed an early triple from the left side, then Nate Elrod (who had 13 points and seven rebounds) drained two from the same spot. Elrod’s second 3-pointer came right before the first quarter buzzer, giving the Pioneers an 18-6 advantage.
By the time Warren County hit free throws to start the second, the lead was 14. Ravenwood stormed back from there, eventually tying the game by halftime.
Lack of depth may have played a part in the Pioneers fading down the stretch and falling by double figures later in the day against the Bears. Warren County was without its senior star Kaden Rutledge and several other role players due to sickness and injury, leaving Fish to find some silver linings while tinkering his rotation.
“I think the staff was really pleased with the team against Ravenwood and Bradley, but we were just undermanned,” said Fish. “It did allow us to get some kids some more minutes that wouldn’t usually be getting extended minutes. I think we have to take in account that, besides Rutledge and Seymour, most of these guys haven’t seen significant time on the floor in previous seasons.
“Each player has their own pace at which they learn and we stress that every day. We told the guys to continue to focus on the process of being a great teammate, being coachable and lay it all on the line for each other and Warren County. If we can do these things in practice and games then we will get over the hump.”
Warren County will get plenty of chances to find its footing before the big district games begin in January. The Pioneers made their home debut Tuesday (results were unavailable at press time) and have upcoming border battles set up with DeKalb County (Friday, away), White County (Nov. 29, away) and Cannon County (Dec. 2, home).