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Pioneers win first, drop second
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Avoiding any semifinal game seems to be the best bet for the Warren County High School boys basketball team. The Pioneers made it to the semifinals of the Wildcat Classic held at Hixson High School over the weekend, but for the second straight week Warren County failed to reach the finals. The Pioneers lost to Hixson 62-47 Friday, a night after downing Lookout Valley 42-29 in the opening round of the tournament. Warren County (9-10) suffered a similar fate in the Sun Drop Romp Christmas tournament held at Charlie Dalton Gym a week ago. The Pioneers won their opening two games to get to the semifinals, but the DeKalb County Tigers trounced Warren County 61-41. Warren County was hoping to find its way to the finals this weekend, but Hixson also had its sights set on the tournament trophy. The host school pulled away in the second half to win despite outstanding efforts by Lee Carden and Tucker Smith. Carden and Smith scored 14 points apiece Friday, but it wasn’t enough to give the Pioneers a big victory on the road. Smith started out hot against Hixson, scoring five of the Pioneers’ seven points in the first quarter. Smith’s three-point play was the highlight for the visitors, but Hixson had a few of its own to pull ahead 16-7. Carden began bringing Warren County back in the second quarter. The junior forward knocked down a 3-pointer and was able to hit a floater. Smith added four points in the period, while the bench chipped in two baskets as Trace Taylor and Edgar Morales each hit a shot. Warren County trailed 27-22 at halftime, but the Pioneers never got closer in the second half. By the time Carden and Morales each had three-point plays in the fourth quarter, Hixson had built an insurmountable lead. The Wildcats won by 15, giving the Pioneers their third double-digit loss in their last four games. Sandwiched in those lopsided losses was a 13-point win over Lookout Valley in the quarterfinals of the Wildcat Classic. Senior Kendall Rutledge provided the scoring punch the Pioneers needed to win their ninth game this season. Rutledge scored 15 points against Lookout Valley, including sinking three 3-pointers in the contest. Rutledge hit a 3-pointer in the first, second and third quarters before watching most of the final period from the bench. Smith closed out Lookout Valley with five points in the fourth quarter, giving him nine points for the game. Carden had seven points in Thursday’s contest, including opening the game with a 3-pointer. Morales, who has seen his playing time increase due to the absence of senior center Nick Simmons, and D’Andre League scored four points each against Lookout Valley. The Pioneers played in the consolation game for the second straight weekend Saturday. Results from Chattanooga were unavailable at press time. Warren County will dive into District 6-AAA play this Friday with a home game against Coffee County. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday’s game will be one of three district home games in the month of January. The second will be Friday, Jan. 18 against Cumberland County. The game against the Jets will also be Whiteout night, which was originally scheduled against Cannon County in December, but was rescheduled due to a conflict.