There may have been only one-third crowd capacity allowed at the Dalt on Saturday night, but the Warren County Pioneer basketball team had vocal support from tipoff to the end of the game against the No. 4 seed McMinn County from Athens.
Warren County ended McMinn County’s season 62-46 at home at Charlie Dalton Gym. The Pioneers improved to 18-6 for the season.
The Pioneers led by double digits the entire second half. They played great defense and were in a very physical contest.
According to head Pioneer coach Chris Sullens, the Pioneers outperformed their opponent. Pioneer fans may have become nervous watching McMinn County making shots consistently from all over the floor in pregame warmups. The Cherokees had a visible height advantage, yet Warren County outrebounded them.
The Pioneers also held the Cherokees well below their season scoring average. The Cherokees had scored over 70 points 11 times.
Pioneer fans had a lot to cheer about once the game started. Aiden Cummings is coming on like a freight train that cannot be stopped in postseason action. Cummings scored 17 points, with 15 of the 17 in the first half. Aiden was money at the free throw line, making 5-of-5.
C.J. Taylor was strong on the boards, and more than once C.J. made a rebound or steal and went coast-to-coast for a layup. Dee Spates was the Pioneers floor general and his floater shot to the basket was working at critical times in the game. Dee was terrific at the foul line, making 9-of-10 free throws.
McMinn County contested virtually every shot, and the Pioneers benefited from free throws. The Pioneers made 23-of-32 foul shots for 72%. No one fouled out of the game, but C.J. Taylor was hit with a strange foul before a ball was inbounded.
It was ruled an intentional foul away from the ball. McMinn County received two foul shots and possession of the basketball. The Cherokees missed both free throws.
After the game, coach Sullens said, “I don’t think it was a technical foul but more of an intentional foul. The officials said C.J. basically gave him a little bit of a shove. C.J. thought there was some extracurricular activity. We have to be smarter than that. We have to continue to play. We do not want to give a team like that an opportunity to get back in the game.”
WARREN COUNTY 62
MCMINN COUNTY 46
PIONEERS: C.J. Taylor 22, Aiden Cummings 17, Dee Spates 14, Kaden Rutledge 7, Kaden Desmaris 2
CHEROKEES: Hayden Frank 13, Jalen James 6, Donovan Daniel 6, Parker Bebb, 5, Andrew Beavers 5, Jordan Lane 4, Ty Runyan 4, Tucker Monroe 3