Before the Warren County High School boys basketball team could start thinking about a Sun Drop Romp Christmas tournament championship, the Pioneers had to take care of business twice on opening day.
Warren County did just that, picking up wins over Sequatchie County and Rhea County Thursday to reserve a spot in the semifinals in the tournament held at Charlie Dalton Gym.
The Pioneers defeated Sequatchie County 64-52, then followed with a 54-50 victory over the Golden Eagles.
The back-to-back victories helped the Pioneers move above .500 for the first time since Nov. 17 when Warren County beat Daniel 1 Academy to move to 2-1 early in the season. Thursday’s win gave Warren County an 8-7 record.
Both victories were led by the inside-outside combination of seniors Tucker Smith and Kendall Rutledge.
Smith battled around the basket against Sequatchie County to score 11 points, then exploded for 23 points to lead the Pioneers past Rhea County.
Rutledge was the leading scorer against Sequatchie County as the senior hit four 3-pointers en route to a 16-point performance. His outside touch didn’t leave him in the second game either. Rutledge hit five 3-pointers against Rhea County to total 15 points.
Smith and Rutledge complemented each other perfectly in both games while the Pioneers ran most of their offense through the pair of senior stars.
Smith got plenty of open looks around the rim because Rutledge kept the defenders peaking outside. When Sequatchie County and Rhea County finally sent double teams to stop Smith, Rutledge would burn them from the outside.
In the Thursday midday game against Sequatchie County, junior Lee Carden pitched in 10 points while senior Nick Simmons added eight.
In the night cap, Carden added six points, including two pressure-packed free throws in the final seconds to put the Pioneers ahead for good.
Sophomore Edgar Morales got his first varsity points in over a month, scoring six points against Sequatchie County and four more against Rhea County.
D’Andre League was the team’s top assist man in both games, totaling 12 helpers for the day.