Coach Malcolm Montgomery is pushing all the right buttons as the Pioneer basketball team has taken off in the last month.
Warren County High School basketball ran its winning streak to four games, and seven of its last eight overall, by defeating the Cannon County Lions 61-44 on Tuesday night.
After starting a sluggish 4-4, coach Montgomery and his staff implemented a new system in practice to put an added emphasis on doing the little things to make the team better. The added competition for starting positions in practice has started to spill over on the court as the Pioneers’ hustle has been much more noticeable during the recent winning streak.
Coach Montgomery thinks his team is doing fine at the moment thanks to three key things.
“We want to play good defense, rebound and take good shots,” said Montgomery. “As long as we do those three things, we’ll be OK.
“On Tuesday, I thought we made the extra pass and got good looks. We shot the ball extremely well and played good defense.”
The sharp shooting for the Pioneers was evident from the start as coach Montgomery made a quick call to his bench in the first quarter to find instant offense.
Seniors Hunter Daniel and Jacob Reagan, the team’s leading scorers, were the first two players off the pine and they came in ready to score.
Reagan knocked down the first of four 3-pointers in the first quarter by Warren County as the team took a 16-10 lead.
Kendall Rutledge hit the second, then Daniel capped off the quarter by hitting two 3-pointers in the span of 40 seconds to give the Pioneers a six-point cushion going into the second period.
After Warren County softened the Lion defense from the outside in the first, junior Tucker Smith took over the paint in the second quarter.
Smith exploded for 10 points in the quarter as he mainly took shots from point-blank range. It was a team effort to find the hot hand as point guard Mitchell McCorkle had two great looks under the basket to Smith and the Pioneers also used their size advantage in high-low sets to free Smith.
By the time the halftime horn sounded, Warren County led comfortably 34-24.
The Pioneer defense was on full display in the third quarter. Using a half-court trap to shake up Cannon County, the Pioneers limited the home team to only two points in the third quarter.
The only basket for the Lions in the third came after Warren County began the half on a 11-0 run to take a 21-point lead.
Smith and Daniel were once again at the forefront of the Warren County offense in the second half as Smith scored four points in the third and Daniel added another triple to give him three for the game.
Leading 45-26 entering the fourth, coach Montgomery got his whole team involved to put away the Lions. The lead never went below double digits as Daniel sank six free throws in the final two minutes and Smith added six more points to give him a season-high 20 points.
Senior Gage Myers, who has battled an ankle injury that kept him out of action for nearly two months, capped off the scoring by hitting two free throws in the final seconds as Warren County cruised to a 17-point victory.
Daniel netted 15 points and Reagan added nine as the Pioneers improved to 11-5 this season.
The Pioneers will begin District 6-AAA play tonight when the team travels to Coffee County to face the Red Raiders.
Warren County got an early litmus test in district play when the Pioneers beat Cumberland County in the Sun Drop Romp, but lost to Cookeville in the finals. Tonight will be the first matchup between the Pioneers and Red Raiders.
Warren County swept the regular-season series between the two teams last season as Reagan hit a game-winning layup in Manchester last year.
Tip-off for tonight’s game will follow the girls game and is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.