Never mind who was seeded where. The Pioneers were playing perfect tournament ball Saturday night as they faced the Cookeville Cavaliers to vie for the championship game after defeating Rhea County in round one.
Tension mounted as the two teams were tied, 47-47, from 2:10 to 12.6 seconds in the fourth quarter as the ball turned over twice with neither team scoring points.
After a change of possession, the Cavs started killing the clock with a minute left in regulation hoping to keep the ball for the final shot that would either earn a bucket, draw a foul, or run out the clock into overtime.
The Warren County defense was playing tough as the Pioneers only allowed the Cavs two shots from the line all night. Finally, with the last seconds ticking off the clock, Cookeville’s Jack Humphrey made the inside run which netted a 2-point shot just as the final buzzer sounded.
The Cavs pulled out the win, 49-47.
The Pioneers missed the upset by one field goal, after a hard-fought contest that almost left them with a win over the No. 1 seeded Cavaliers.
“I’m very proud of how our team competed,” said Warren County head coach Chris Sullens. “In tournament basketball, most games are going to come down to the final minutes. Two quality teams got after it for 32 minutes. Credit the young man for Cookeville who hit a big shot. The night before we pulled it out in a similar situation. The margin for error at this time in the season is razor thin. I thought our players took the plan we as coaches had put in place and put our team in a situation to win the ballgame.”
“As a coach we talk daily to our players about how to embrace these moments as an athlete and team. Very few things compare to working day-in, day-out with your teammates to be in those moments. We had our opportunities to take the lead late in game and that is what we ask for each night we play for those type opportunities,” Sullens continued. “Our guys continue to impress me with how they are continually improving each night. We have a group that will rebound from a tough loss and focus on the next game that will determine our region seeding. I fully expect to play in region finals with this group of young men. Our goals never change and we never waver on what our expectations are for Pioneer basketball. We look forward and are excited for the opportunities we have coming this week with this group of young men.”
Giving nothing away, Warren County had a 22-17 lead going into the break as Pioneer K’Rojhn Calbert scored nine points on his way to a best-of-season performance hitting for 22 points inside, a game-high. All the momentum seemed to be going the Pioneers way as they advanced to lead the Cavs by 12 points down the stretch.
What Calbert was doing inside by pulling down boards and putting up points, Pioneer long-range shooter Chance Hobbs was doing from outside the arc. Hobbs hit for four treys and a 14-point total in the game, second only to Calbert.
Cookeville hit one of the two free-throw shots they had all ballgame for 50 percent while the Pioneers were 5-of-9 for 56 percent.
Just like the breeze changes on a spring day, momentum shifted toward the Cavs in fourth-quarter action as all the intangibles landed shiny-side up for Cookeville. There were several turnovers by referee, a couple of wayward passes and miscues by the Pioneers that gave a shift in scoring back to the Cavs and led to the 47-47 tie in the final minute.
Other Pioneer scorers were Logan Wilson with 4 points, Isaac Golden, Isaiah Grayson and Caleb Newby all scored 2 and Sloan Seymour scored 1. The roundup of points was just the tip of the iceberg as it was a total team effort by Warren County.
The Pioneers played for third-place in the tournament Tuesday night at the Dalt. Results were not available at press time.