With more back-and-forth than a tennis match, Friday’s first round of the district tournament for the Warren County Pioneers wasn’t for the faint of heart.
With 16 seconds left and Warren County up, 52-50, Pioneer Isaac Golden intercepted the ball down court and made a pass to Chance Hobbs who was immediately fouled. Hobbs was the wrong Pioneer to foul, making both free throws for a 54-50 lead.
On the change of possession, Rhea County tickled the twine with a trey, now 54-53 with 5.7 seconds remaining.
Warren County’s Isaiah Grayson was fouled on his trip up court and with 4.7 seconds to go and made 1-of-2 shots, 55-53.
The Golden Eagles had one more shot, literally, and they knew the Pioneers would avoid the foul so they opted for the full-court fast break which they missed just as the buzzer sounded, leaving the Pioneers the 2-point win.
“We survived and advance,” said Warren County coach Chris Sullens. “The kids played hard and it was a one- to two-possession game you would expect at tournament time. We protected the house and move forward.”
The district-tournament win advances the Pioneers to the region tournament with time and place to be determined.
The Golden Eagles weren’t going out without a fight, as the two teams stayed close until the final buzzer.
If there was a key to success, it would start and end at the charity stripe. The Pioneers went 15-of-22 for 68 percent while Rhea County shot an abysmal 21 percent hitting 3-of-14 from the line.
Foul-line shooting aside, the two district rivals were well-matched as both teams displayed a thoroughness in setting up the offense, working on the boards, and waiting for plays to develop.
It was unknown how badly Grayson’s ankle injury during the Cumberland County game on Monday would affect the starter’s performance. Grayson went on to lead the Pioneer offense with 18 points, followed closely by Hobbs who hit for 12 including two treys. Tall post K’Rojhn Calbert had a big night, scoring 11 points, most from rebounds.
Rounding out the Pioneer total tally were Caleb Newby with 8 points and Golden with 6.
The Pioneers played the No. 1-seeded Cookeville Cavs Saturday night. Results were not available at press time.