Before the basketball season started, coaches met at the District 6-AAA media day to discuss and predict how the season would play out. Coach Malcolm Montgomery left the meeting with his Warren County High School boys team pegged as the fourth best team in the district. Entering district play, the prediction has come true.
Warren County opens district play tonight at home against Coffee County with a 9-11 record, which currently trails Cookeville, White County and Cumberland County.
The Pioneers were looking up at those three teams in the projected standings and the current standings show the same reflection.
The Cookeville Cavaliers have started out the season in dominating fashion, going 16-3. One of those wins was a 62-26 stomping of the Pioneers in the consolation game of the Sun Drop Romp Christmas tournament held at Charlie Dalton Gym in December.
The White County Warriors, who have played the entire season without starting point guard Devon Davidson, own a 10-5 mark while Cumberland County evened its record at 9-9 with a solid showing at the Nera White tournament in Stewart County last weekend.
Coffee County (5-9) is the only team trailing the Pioneers and that will be the opening matchup for Warren County as district play begins tonight. The Cumberland County Jets will play host to the Cavaliers tonight as well.
Absences of top players have been a growing trend in District 6-AAA during the months of November and December.
Davidson, a two-time All-District 6-AAA selection, hasn’t stepped foot on the court for White County after suffering a severe leg injury during football season. His return date is unknown.
The district’s other standout point guard, Cavalier Philip Roper, wasn’t in action against Warren County as he nursed a foot injury.
The Pioneers have also felt the sting of missing top contributors over the course of the holidays. Senior center Nick Simmons missed the team’s last four games, when Warren County went 1-3, with the flu. Sophomore Malik Ladet hasn’t played the team’s last nine games after having surgery.
Getting to full strength will be a must for the Pioneers if the team wants to contend for a top spot in the district and advance back to the regional tournament.
Warren County has had to lean heavily on its senior class, especially forward Tucker Smith and guard Kendall Rutledge.
The duo has combined to score 48 percent of the team’s points this season. Smith currently leads the team with an average of 13.2 points per game, including scoring a career-high 29 points in the Pioneers’ last outing. Rutledge average 11.3 points per game and set a career high in points against Tullahoma Nov. 30, scoring 23 in a 54-34 victory for Warren County.
The win at Tullahoma was a big one as the Pioneers stepped up against a AAA team after struggling a year ago. Last season, Warren County finished 14-16 but was 3-12 against teams classified as AAA in Tennessee.
Thus far, the Pioneers are 4-6 this season against AAA competition. Warren County swept Franklin County, defeated Tullahoma on the road and won 54-50 over Rhea County in the Sun Drop Romp tournament.
Warren County will be looking to add its fifth win over AAA competition tonight against the Red Raiders. Tip-off for the contest with Coffee County is set for 7:30 p.m.