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Pioneers drop heartbreaker in Smithville
Nate Elrod finishes over four Tigers in the fourth quarter of Friday's 68-66 loss. - photo by Jeffery Simmons

The scene was set for Danny Fish to get a sweet and satisfying first victory with Warren County at his old stomping grounds, but the Tigers stole it away in the final seconds.

Elishah Ramos’ putback with 2.5 seconds left allowed DeKalb County to down the Pioneers 68-66 for its first win in the border battle in eight years. It was part of an 11-4 run by the Tigers in the last 90 seconds to end Warren County’s 14-game winning streak in the series. 

Kaden Rutledge, who had a game-high 17 points for the Pioneers, got a clean look after a wild series of events in the last two seconds, but his 3-pointer that was right on line came up just short at the buzzer. Nate Elrod added 12 points, including some big buckets when Warren County needed them the most in the fourth quarter.

Warren County (0-5) may have been playing from ahead in the final two minutes, but the Pioneers spent the first 30 minutes trying to dig out of a hole in DeKalb County. The Tigers, who seemingly couldn’t miss early, raced out to a 23-12 lead after eight minutes and stayed out in front until midway through the third quarter.

The Pioneers had six chances to take the lead after halftime, but didn’t cash in until Rutledge sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key to push the Pioneers ahead 46-44. Warren County started adding to its lead once the fourth quarter began.

Elrod muscled his way to a bucket for a three-point play chance early in the fourth, while Rutledge had a coast-to-coast push that forced a DeKalb County timeout with 5:57 left when the senior’s layup kissed off the glass and into the twine. At that point, the Pioneers led 53-48.

DeKalb County wouldn’t let the Pioneers get any breathing room though, especially with Connor Close on the attack. The star Tiger forward finished with 28 points, including nine in the fourth quarter when his team needed his offense the most. 

During the final push by the Tigers, Close was counted on twice to tie the game. He had a three-point play with just over a minute to go to knot the score at 64 (completing a 15-second span where the Tigers scored five points to erase Warren County’s lead) and added a driving layup with 30 seconds to go after Devin Fish had pushed the Pioneers ahead with free throws.

Devin, a freshman, was huge at the line in the fourth quarter, sinking 6-of-6 from the charity stripe to buoy the offense. Warren County had a crucial turnover late though, allowing the Tigers to drain the clock for a potential game-winning shot.

With the clock ticking down, the Tigers made their way to the basket, but were errant on a floater. Not to be denied, Ramos grabbed the carom and flicked it off the glass for the final points.

Even as the Tigers celebrated Ramos’ heroics, it wasn’t over yet.

Warren County took a quick timeout to set up a heave, only to see Alex van Vuuren’s 94-foot throw knocked out of bounds by DeKalb County with 1.3 seconds to play. With the ball under their own basket, Rutledge curled into a wide-open shot in front of his bench, but he needed just another foot to steal the win from Smithville.

Warren County will again go for its first win this Tuesday at White County. The Pioneers will be back home Friday against Cannon County.

Pioneer scoring – Rutledge 17, Elrod 12, Fish 8, van Vuuren 8, Braylon Grayson 6, Treyton Terry 6, Sawyer Seymour 5, Carter Simpson 4

 Note: Simpson's short jumper in the first quarter was the first varsity points for the Pioneer freshman.