A feverish crowd showed up Friday night for the Warren County High School basketball home opener and Hunter Daniel and the Pioneers delighted the fans.
Daniel scored 21 points, including throwing home a dunk, to help the Pioneers roll over the Grundy County Yellow Jackets 66-44 in a Hall of Fame game held at Charlie Dalton Gym.
Daniel, who was coming off a 30-point performance in the last Pioneer game, was a force to be reckoned with once again.
The 6-foot-5 forward couldn’t be contained by the Yellow Jackets. Daniel poured in 13 points in the first half, then the senior sent Grundy County reeling late in the third when he had a steal and breakaway slam right before the buzzer.
It was a part of a big night for the Pioneers as the team erased a pair of close losses from Tuesday night with an empathic win over the visiting Yellow Jackets.
Warren County got off to a slow start. Turnovers and missed shots let Grundy County take an early lead, but sophomore D’Andre League changed the game when he stepped on the court.
League subbed in midway through the first with his team down and he promptly sank a 3-pointer from the left corner to get the Pioneers going.
The long-range shot triggered a big run as the Pioneers outscored Grundy County 14-2 to take an 18-9 lead. League added another 3-pointer during the stretch and fed Kendall Rutledge for a 3-pointer of his own.
Just when it looked like the Yellow Jackets had withstood the Pioneers rally in the second quarter, another sub came off coach Malcolm Montgomery’s bench to ignite the team and the crowd.
Senior Thomas Locke showed off a splendid shooting touch in a four-minute stretch where he connected on three 3-pointers. The third and final one came with 11 seconds to go as Locke led the Pioneers to a commanding 36-22 halftime lead.
Warren County maintained its double-digit lead throughout the third quarter by relying on Rutledge and Daniel. Rutledge scored four points in a 15-second span midway through the quarter. The junior guard sank two free throws, then nailed a jumper following a Grundy County turnover as Warren County went ahead 15 and forced a time-out.
In the final two minutes of the third, Daniel began to take the game over. Daniel sliced to the basket for two layups, the second of which he nearly slammed before deciding to settle for a layup.
Daniel wouldn’t settle for going off the glass on his last bucket of the quarter. Grundy County tried to break the Pioneer press with 10 seconds remaining, but a pass over the middle was intercepted by Daniel.
The senior had nobody between him and the goal and he took two big steps before rising up and jamming the ball home. The crowd let out a roar as Warren County led 50-33 going into the fourth quarter.
Coach Montgomery got his bench involved in the fourth quarter as most of the team’s sophomores saw action. Ryan Jennings connected on the team’s eighth 3-pointer late and Dillon Wood and Lee Carden each got their first varsity points of the season on free throws.
By the time Grundy County finally threw in the white flag and stopped fouling to extend the game, Warren County was up 22 and celebrating its first victory of the season.
Joining Daniel in double digits was Locke with 11 points and League with 10.
The Pioneers will be looking for revenge when the team takes the court in two nights at Charlie Dalton Gym.
Warren County will be playing host to DeKalb County, a team which handed the Pioneers three losses last season. The action will begin at 6 p.m. with the girls game. The boys will follow.