The Warren County Pioneers played host to the Cannon County Lions on Saturday night and turnovers kept the Pioneers from fending off the Lions in the second half.
Cannon County was able to overcome a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit, take the lead late in the game, and defeat the Pioneers, 50-46.
Said Pioneer coach Chris Sullens “I am proud of the progress we have showed. We have double digits wins already this season and our guys want more, but we have let four or five games slip away. I take responsibility for that. We are watching this young basketball team grow up before our eyes. The effort and energy they brought was the type winning basketball teams give nightly, and we have to learn to finish ball games. We must hit free throws late in the ballgame and learn to handle the pressure of the moment.”
Isaac Golden, who had just hit the game-winning shot Friday night for Warren County, and who would lead the Pioneers with 10 points on Saturday night, would not have the same late-game heroics against the Lions.
Cannon County came out in the second half with ferocious full-court pressure on the ball that created havoc for the Pioneers in the opening minutes of the third quarter. The tempo favored Warren County in the previous two quarters, but as Cannon County turned up the heat, Warren County began to sweat. The turnovers that had not been prevalent for the Pioneers in the first half were in full swing in the second half. Warren County just could not find the handle on the ball for much of the third and fourth quarters.
The Lions were still down 10 to start the fourth. Cannon County would knock down a couple of 3-pointers, something that gave Warren County trouble in the first meeting of these two, but the Pioneers would be able to recover this time and fight off the dangerous 3-point shooting from Cannon County.
After the Lions had cut into the Pioneer lead from the full-court pressure applied, the Pioneers were able to fire back when Christian Wilkinson gathered a loose ball and passed it to an open Golden, who knocked down an open 3-pointer.
This time it was Cannon County which would turn the ball over and Holden Baker ran the floor back for Warren County and buried a mid-range jumper to push the lead back to 10.
However, more careless passing and transition baskets allowed Cannon County to cut the lead to four points. After another Pioneer turnover, Cannon County drained a 3-pointer and it was 40-39 with 2:37 to play when coach Sullens called for time. It was starting to sound like a home game for the Lions as their fans were on their feet, while Pioneer fans were in shock.
Out of the timeout, Golden found the mark with a much-needed 3-point shot. But Cannon County responded by driving the floor and getting inside for two points. Warren County was up 43-41.
With 2:02 to play, Pioneer Joelah Solomon made a defensive stand and was hit with a technical foul immediately after reacting to the official’s call. The technical foul sent the Cannon County faithful into a frenzy. Josh Ruehlen hit 1-of-2 for Cannon County and the ball went to the Lions after the free throws. Warren County is up one point after the technical and Cannon County took its first lead on a deep 3-point shot by Ruehlen, now 45-43 Cannon County.
Warren County came down the floor only to lose the handle and had to foul. Cannon County hit both to go ahead 47-43. But the Pioneers showed they weren’t about to quit.
Solomon drew contact and after the missed front end of a 1-and-1, Wilkinson gathered up the loose ball and he was fouled. Wilkinson hit one and the Lions tried to milk the clock with a 47-44 lead.
But Cannon County turned the ball over to Wilkinson and he ran the floor and dished to Golden, who hit to cut the Lions lead 47-46. That would be as close as Warren County would get.
After a few more turnovers and fouls to stop the clock from running out, the Warren County Pioneers would watch as Cannon County hung on for the victory.
The Lions outscored the Pioneers 25-11 in the fourth quarter.
Coach Sullens added “We are much improved but still have many more steps to take. Our guys are starting to realize the potential we talk about daily can be turned into performance on the floor. We will get back on the practice floor and film room this week to correct mistakes we made. Our guys want to change the perception of Pioneer basketball.”
“Make no mistake, we have long ways to go, but I am proud of strides they have made. These 15 guys have not quit working hard for this team or each other. Our coaching staff, along with myself, are excited about the next six weeks and the next few years. We teach our players to never look back. We move forward.”
Warren County will be back in action this Friday night at Charlie Dalton Gym against Cookeville for Gold Out night. Gold Out night is to help raise awareness of childhood cancer. Tip-off of the girls game is set for 6 p.m., with the boys game to follow.
PIONEER SCORING - Isaac Golden 10, Holden Baker 9, Joelah Solomon 9, Carlos Villegas 8, Isaiah Grayson 5, Christian Wilkinson 5
CANNON COUNTY TOP SCORERS - Josh Reuhlen 21, Jacob Nave 13, Garrett McReynolds 9