The Warren County High School boys basketball team seems to have found its winning formula. Rely on seniors Kendall Rutledge, Tucker Smith and Nick Simmons to lead the Pioneers to victory.
Rutledge and Smith each scored 17 points while Simmons added 10 points as the Pioneers defeated the Cannon County Lions 65-55 Friday night at Charlie Dalton Gym.
Warren County (5-6) has won three of its last four games and the senior class has played a big part. Rutledge, Smith and Simmons combined to average 32 points in victories over Tullahoma and Franklin County and the seniors surpassed that number against the Lions.
Rutledge was a catalyst in a 14-0 run during the third quarter that put the game out of reach.
With Warren County leading 36-33, the senior shooting guard splashed in a 3-pointer from the left corner a minute into the second half which doubled the Pioneer lead.
Rutledge added six free throws during the stretch, including swishing two after Cannon County’s coach was called for a technical that fired up the Pioneer fanbase.
After a nifty no-look pass from D’Andre League gave Smith an easy layup, Rutledge drained a 3-pointer right in front of the student section that put the Pioneers up 50-33.
Despite sinking only 6-of-12 free throws in the final quarter, the Pioneers never let the Lions get within single digits.
The Pioneers looked like they would have trouble with the Lions in the opening period, especially point guard Cory Henley. Henley scored nine points in the first quarter for Cannon County as Warren County fell behind 18-12 early.
Smith’s two late layups in the first quarter, which gave the senior seven points in the period, tied the game at 18 after eight minutes.
Simmons got to shoulder the scoring load in the second quarter. After the Lions adjusted their defense to clog up the lane and stop Smith, Simmons started picking Cannon County apart from the short corner.
Simmons found his favorite spot 15 feet from the basket on the baseline and calmly sank three jumpers. Simmons’ third made shot from the baseline put the Pioneers ahead 30-27 at halftime.
Cannon County was able to ease back in the game shortly after intermission, but the run by Rutledge and the Pioneers put the game away.
Lee Carden added nine points in the victory for Warren County, while sophomore Ryan Jennings scored six.
The Pioneers will try to keep their winning streak alive this week in the Sun Drop Romp Christmas tournament held in Warren County. A full schedule for the tournament will be listed in Wednesday’s Southern Standard.