Thursday night, the Pioneers traveled to Monterey High School to play the Wildcats in a rematch of a home and away series.
The Pioneers won the home game at the Dalt in December by 2 points, but unfortunately, Monterey won the rematch 58-55. The Pioneers drop to 15-6 overall to end the regular season.
Senior Dee Spates led the Pioneers in scoring with 22 points. C.J. Taylor had 12 points and Kaden Rutledge had 11.
Putnam County has not been kind to the Pioneers in the past week. The Pioneers lost to Cookeville on Tuesday at the Dalt and Monterey was not a lightweight Class A team. Upperman is another high school boys team in Putnam County, and they are ranked third in the state in the AP Boys AA Poll. Something must be going on in Putnam County to make high school basketball so competitive.
Spates started the game with intensity, driving to the basket twice and making a 3-point shot to score Warren County’s first 7 points. The Pioneers were up 7-2, giving the impression this could be a lopsided game.
Monterey kept up and was behind 7-6 when Aiden Cummings scored a tough basket, 9-6. A few possessions later, Kaden Rutledge popped a 3-pointer to give the Pioneers a 14-7 lead.
The first quarter ended with the Pioneers up, 14-12. Warren County was up by one point, 26-25, at halftime.
Outside shots were not falling in high percentages for the Pioneers. Monterey was very physical and at times dominant in the paint. The Pioneers were not able to drive the lane untouched. On the other end of the court, Monterey would often pass the ball and drive with one of its big men, opening up clear shots in the paint.
The game had swung in Monterey’s favor in the second half with Monterey leading by 12 points going into the fourth quarter, 47-35. An example of how physical the game had become, the officials called timeout for a Monterey player to be taped up and blood to be wiped off the floor with 3:42 left in the fourth.
The Pioneers fought hard to reduce the lead in the closing minutes. The closest the Pioneers could get was within 1 point with :23 seconds left, trailing 56-55.
C.J. Taylor scored 8 straight points for the Pioneers in a stretch that cut the lead to 6 points, and then Dee Spates and Kaden Rutledge made baskets to cut the lead to 1 point.
Monterey Wildcat guard Tucker Phillips went to the foul line for a 1-and-1 with 9.7 seconds left and a 56-55 lead. Phillips made both free throws and Monterey had a 58-55 lead that became the final score.
After the game, Pioneer head coach Chris Sullens said, “It has been a long season. We have been in tough spots before. We just have to understand what we want as a team. We are fine.”
The district tournament brackets will be determined Monday and the opponent for Warren County’s home district game on Thursday will be officially announced.
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WILDCATS 58 PIONEERS 55 WILDCATS: Cayden Jones 17, Silas Randolph 15, Tucker Phillips 11, Laterman Sullivan 6, Brandon Dillon 5, Drew Surkin 2, Bryon Borjas 2 PIONEERS: Dee Spates 22, C.J. Taylor 12, Kaden Rutledge 11, Aiden Cummings 10