You only get one chance to make a first impression and nobody is more aware of that than Pioneer coach Danny Fish. As a first-year coach trying to make his way in Warren County, Fish has been doing all he can to put a stamp on the program this winter.
He may have gotten one of first signature wins Tuesday.
Warren County went on the road and downed District 6-4A foe Franklin County 62-51, a huge step in the right direction after the Pioneers finished last in the district last year. Senior Nate Elrod led four Pioneers in double figures with 15 points, while the defense created havoc and grabbed 11 steals to frustrate the Rebels.
“It’s a great start for our guys. We got out of the gates well,” said coach Fish, both referencing his team’s 17-4 start Tuesday and the win in the district opener. “Any time you can go on the road and get wins, it’s a good day. I am excited for our guys because they have worked so hard this year for moments like these.”
Devin Fish added 13 points in the victory, while Treyton Terry and Sawyer Seymour scored 11 points apiece.
The Pioneers set the tone early with their defense. Elrod got his hands on an early pass for a steal, followed by Seymour sealing off the baseline and drawing a charge to fire up the Warren County bench. Once the shots started falling to match the defensive energy, the Rebels were knocked on their heels.
Braylon Grayson got the scoring started, getting an easy layup after the Pioneer press forced a steal in the backcourt. Grayson continued the run with two free throws, then had a steal and feed to Terry for a run-out layup that forced a Franklin County timeout with 3:34 left in the first quarter.
The Rebels needed five minutes to finally get on the board, but a putback by the home team didn’t slow down the Pioneers. Elrod followed with a layup off a good dish from Terry before Seymour and Fish nailed 3-pointers from the wing to make it 14-4.
By the time Fish hit his second early triple, a high-arching shot from right in front of the Rebel bench, Warren County led 17-4 and had the Rebels on the ropes. Franklin County slowly got off the mat though, even making it a two-point game early in the third quarter.
The Rebels had all but erased the Pioneers’ early advantage by the time Kaleb Rigsby hit a free throw to make it 30-28 in the third, but Warren County had a quick response. Elrod beat the Rebel pressure with a tough lefty layup on the ensuing possession, then the Pioneer defense got back to locking down the Rebels.
Warren County allowed just three points in the final six minutes of the third quarter, while the offense did enough to push the lead back to double figures. Terry had a pair of impressive finishes in transition during the spurt, while Seymour hit a key triple to make it 41-31 late in the period. Elrod made it 44-31 entering the fourth following a Fish free throw, scoring an easy layup with 8.3 seconds left in the period.
The bucket was set up by a perfect pass following a long possession where Warren County stayed poised and worked for a last shot. It was the type of play that exemplified the confidence and precision the Pioneers played with to win on the road.
“I was impressed with our effort and execution. Defensively, we played well without fouling and I thought we passed the ball well too,” said coach Fish. “We had 15 assists, which means we are sharing the ball. We also had four players in double figures. I thought it was a great answer following the loss to Stewarts Creek and hopefully we can play win against Shelbyville Friday.”
The Pioneers knew they could start peaking toward their home matchup with the Eagles after Elrod sliced through the Rebel defense for a layup to start the fourth and Alex van Vuuren stepped in to take a charge on the next possession. By then, Warren County was back up by 15 and in full control.
The Pioneers will hope to replicate the performance for their home fans tonight. Warren County will face off with Shelbyville at 7:30 p.m. The Eagles are 0-1 in district play coming into the meeting, having fallen to Coffee County 68-36 Tuesday.
WC scoring – Elrod 15, Fish 13, Terry 11, Seymour 11, Aaron Templeton 5, Grayson 4, van Vuuren 3