Sloths would have been envious of the pace the Pioneers tried to employ against Stone Memorial. A deliberate, slow-down style was coach Chris Sullens’ scheme to try to upset one of the district’s top teams on the road.
It almost worked, but CJ Taylor couldn’t stay out of a foul trouble.
With the Pioneer star watching, Stone Memorial was able to survive in the second half to down Warren County 47-42.
Taylor finished with 18 points, but played just two of the final 12 minutes when the Panthers edged the Pioneers again in a close game. Stone Memorial beat Warren County 54-50 Jan. 8.
Justin Headrick led Stone Memorial with 13 points as the Panthers moved to 4-1 in district play. Warren County dropped to 1-4 in the standings after the loss.
The plan for the Pioneers was obvious from the start - stay slow and feed Taylor. The sophomore post had seven points in the first quarter, including a late 3-pointer which gave the Pioneers an early 11-8 lead.
Headrick answered with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to tie the game after eight minutes.
Warren County (14-10) froze up in the second quarter, going nearly five minutes of game play without scoring. Sullens used two timeouts during the span, which was plagued by turnovers allowing Stone Memorial to build a nine-point lead.
Ethan Smith finally snapped the slide with a 3-pointer out of a timeout, one that was immediately matched by Hunter Wattenbarger. The Panthers were able to maintain a 23-17 lead going into the locker rooms.
Things looked bleak early in the third when Taylor picked up his third foul early. Taylor didn’t lose his aggression though.
The sophomore stood in to draw a timely charge on Headrick, then added a three-point play on the other end. Taylor scored on putbacks on each of the next two Pioneer possessions to cut the lead to 29-24 with 4:29 to go in the period.
Taylor picked up his fourth foul a minute later and Stone Memorial immediately responded with a 6-0 run to push its lead into double digits.
Raven Lewandowski momentarily squashed the slide with a spinning layup late in the third. Kason Holder’s late layup made it 35-28 going into the fourth quarter.
Taylor came back into the game with six minutes to play, but he was gone almost as soon as he entered. Taylor was able to get to the line for two free throws on his first possession, cutting the lead to 38-35, but he was called for a charge on the following possession.
The Pioneers played the final 5:06 without its top scorer.
Kason Holder drew Warren County within one, 41-40, with 2:26 left on a putback, but Stone Memorial responded with a 3-pointer from Will Hecker.
The Pioneer offense didn’t score again until 15 seconds to play, when Holder grabbed a missed free throw and scored. It was too little, too late though as Stone Memorial hit three late free throws in the final minute to hold off Warren County.
Eli Jones hit two key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, his only points as he and Holder finished second on the team with six points. Smith and Lacedrick Cox each had five points.