The Pioneers haven’t waited long to learn from their opening-night mistakes.
After failing to close out Community last week in the season opener, Warren County has used impressive late runs to win four straight. The last strong close came in Tullahoma Tuesday, where the Pioneers tamed the Wildcats 68-62.
“We’ve learned to battle. Our defense started clamping down late and did an excellent job of making Tullahoma take tough shots,” said coach Chris Sullens, who still hasn’t forgotten his team letting an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter slip away against the Vikings. “We’re starting to get the right guys in the right spots. We had a two-minute stretch to start the third that got us back in it and took control in the fourth.”
Lacedrick ‘Red’ Cox continued his torrid start to his senior season, scoring a game-high 16 points – 14 of which came in the second half when Warren County rallied from a 32-25 halftime deficit. Irving Espinoza added 12 points on four 3-pointers, while post CJ Taylor and Aiden Cummings scored 11 and 10, respectively.
Cox did his best to spark the Pioneers in the second half, doing a little bit of everything on both ends. The senior played sticky defense and snared every rebound in sight while also scoring at every level as the Wildcats had no answer for his athleticism.
A putback with 4:20 left in the third quarter by Cox gave Warren County its first lead of the second half, 35-34. He added a 3-pointer on the next possession, part of a run where the Pioneers took control.
Eli Jones aided the cause with a corner three, breaking a slump where the senior had started only 2-of-12 from outside. Cox followed with a three of his own, a straightaway triple which put the Pioneers up 46-60.
Cox would add two technical free throws late in the third quarter as he scored 10 points in the period.
“He’s going to be an all-district performer if he keeps this up. The last two years, my favorite word seemed to be ‘Red’ because I was saying it a lot, but now we don’t have to say anything. He’s playing like a senior – defending the ball like we’ve never seen, rebounding the ball and attacking. He’s very comfortable; he’s one of our best right now,” said Sullens.
Cox sparked another 6-0 run midway through the fourth quarter. Leading 55-51, Cox sliced through the defense and found Cummings for an easy lay-in.
Seconds later, Dee Spates went coast-to-coast following a Tullahoma miss and finished with a perfectly lofted floater.
Tullahoma took a timeout with 3:45 left trailing 59-51, but it didn’t stop the run.
Warren County gobbled up another Wildcat miss and turned on the jets, with Taylor feeding Cox for a layup to push the lead to 10.
The Wildcats tried clawing back late, but a hustle play by the Pioneers ended all hope for the home team.
Spates went to the line with his team ahead 61-54, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Cummings didn’t give up on the rebound, ultimately leaping out of bounds and grabbing the ball and rifling it off Tullahoma to save the possession.
On the inbound, Espinoza found himself wide open from 3 and the Pioneers’ top outside sniper swished home the dagger.
Spates finished with seven points in the victory, followed by Grant King with six and Jones with five. Freshman Kaden Rutledge hit a free throw for his lone point.
The Pioneers will make their home debut Monday, Dec. 2 against Upperman. The Bees are currently 3-0, having started the season with a 73-37 romp of Riverdale.
Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at Charlie Dalton Gym.