WCHS head coach Chris Sullens said this is probably the best team DeKalb County has had in four to five years, and for three quarters, the Pioneers and Tigers traded leads at various times.
It was not until the fourth quarter that Warren County pulled away for a convincing 79-64 win. The Pioneers remain undefeated and 4-0 for the young season.
Kaden Rutledge led the Pioneers with 20 points while Sawyer Seymour added 15.
DeKalb County had an 18-15 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Tigers brought plenty of fans who filled their stands and covered some of the wall beside the stands. It was the type of intense first half in which DeKalb County fans questioned fouls loudly and with hand gestures, even rising up to protest calls by the referees. It was a good rivalry atmosphere.
Some DeKalb County players were getting in foul trouble late in the first half, and DeKalb County had to make substitutions. During halftime, DeKalb County head coach John Sanders spoke about what his team needed to do in the second half.
He said, “We have to stay out of foul trouble and take care of the basketball. We had some silly turnovers there at the end (of the first half) that put us in bad situations. We had some guys who were out there who normally don’t get a lot of playing time, and that is what happens when you get into foul trouble.”
DeKalb County stayed out of serious foul trouble in the second half, and the Tigers had the lead 51-49 late in the third quarter. Pioneer Braylon Grayson was open under the basket and made two points that tied the game, 51-51.
DeKalb County made a free throw to take back the lead, 52-51. Pioneer Eli Kuykendall then muscled his way into the basket for a bucket that gave Warren County the lead for good, 53-52.
After Warren County took back the lead, the Pioneers never let up on the gas. The Pioneers kept attacking and slowly separated from DeKalb County in the fourth quarter. Alex van Vuuren made a 3-pointer early in the final quarter that increased the Pioneer lead to 9 points, 65-56, and the Tigers appeared to fade from that point to the final buzzer.
As head coach Chris Sullens said after the game, Warren County simply wore DeKalb County down by playing 10-11 players throughout the game.
Sullens was asked how his team created separation from DeKalb County in the fourth quarter. Sullens replied, “We play a lot of guys. Let’s be honest, we wear on basketball teams. The pressure this team can put on teams can be relentless at times. Our kids made plays too down the stretch. We had some kids like Isaiah Cummings making free throws. I don’t care who scores as long as the Pioneers score, and I think the guys in the locker room are buying into that. Win, lose or draw, these kids get after it for 32 minutes.”
Sullens was asked about Kaden Rutledge’s performance, and Sullens said, “He is getting in basketball shape, and he will only get better. The thing I like about Kaden Rutledge more than anything is that he is a true leader. He comes on the floor every day and coach Sullens has a frown on his face. Kaden keeps smiling. He takes coaching. He knows that if he doesn’t take coaching, the younger players will not take it. He understands his role on the team is to make plays … I did not say score. He needs to make plays for his basketball team and continue to be a leader. He has been in district championship games. He has been there, and he can teach these younger kids. We can talk about stats. That is not something I look at with Kaden. I like how Kaden plays and handles his teammates. He understands that this is a team game.”
Kaden Rutledge was asked how he felt about the game tonight. Rutledge said, “It felt great. I want to thank my teammates for putting me in perfect positions. We come every day ready to practice, and at all times we are ready to work. There was great effort by those guys tonight. I want to thank them. It was a full team effort. Night in and night out, we want to put the best product on the floor.”
Rutledge was asked about how the transition from football to basketball has affected him since this was his first year playing football. Rutledge said, “Football taught me to understand that you need to give everything you have. There are only so many minutes in a game, and you have to be ready every minute of a game.”
SOUTHERN STANDARD ON SPORTS
Full interviews with head coach Chris Sullens and Pioneer Kaden Rutledge can be viewed on Southern Standard on Sports. The show can be viewed for free at www.souternstandard.com and by downloading the Southern Standard app. DeKalb County head coach John Sanders is also interviewed on the show.
The Pioneers tip-off against rival White County at home in the Dalt on Tuesday night at approximately 7:30 p.m.
DEKALB COUNTY 64
WARREN COUNTY Kaden Rutledge 20, Sawyer Seymour 15, Treyton Terry 12, Eli Kuykendall 9, Nate Elrod 6, Alex van Vuuren 5, Braylon Grayson 4, Isaiah Cummings 3, Hayden Collins 3, Keldrick Cox 2
DEKALB COUNTY Conner Close 19, Jordan Young 15, Stetson Agee 10, Brayden Antioniac 9, Isaac Knowles 5, Robert Wheeler 2, Zack Birmingham 2, Elishah Ramos 2