If the Pioneers are going to reach their preseason goals, coach Chris Sullens wants to see more grit.
Following a 67-57 loss to Stone Memorial Friday night, Sullens pondered if his approach to this season has left his team vulnerable to tough teams.
“We’re a finesse team. By finesse, I mean we rely on our skill and our shooting,” said Sullens, who saw his team drop to 17-5 overall and 3-2 in District 6-AAA play. “Stone Memorial won the races to the ball. They searched for contact. They got into us physically.”
Two examples of the Panthers exerting their will were the play of post Justin Headrick and all-district guard Brett Newcome. Headrick used his height advantage to dominate the paint, oftentimes scoring over or through multiple Pioneer defenders on his way to a 19-point night. Newcome played bigger than his 5-foot-9 frame in frustrating the Warren County defense. Newcome added 16 points, many coming at point-blank range after shouldering by defenders.
Newcome took over at the end of the third quarter. The Panther guard buried a 3-pointer from the wing, then muscled into the paint for an and-one layup to push Stone Memorial ahead 52-39.
Warren County had chances to slice into the lead in the fourth quarter, but failed to convert on several open looks. Irving Espinoza missed a breakaway layup with 2:31 to play that would’ve cut the lead to eight. The Pioneers got another point-blank shot moments later, only to see Chance Hobbs come up short. Warren County got the board, but Espinoza saw his wide-open 3-pointer from the wing spin out.
Even with Isaiah Grayson drilling two 3-pointers in the final two minutes, the Pioneers never could threaten.
Grayson was in the middle of the Pioneers taking an early lead Friday. Grayson had two run-out layups and a three-point play during a 17-4 run which pushed Warren County ahead 19-14 after one quarter. Stone
Memorial swung the tide by holding the Pioneers to six points in the second quarter, half coming on a 3-point play by Grayson in the period.
Grayson finished with 26 points just three days after dropping 31 points against White County. In five district games, the senior forward is averaging 19.2 points per game.
Espinoza added 11 points against the Panthers, while Hobbs and Sloan Seymour scored 8. Tyree Ladet and Bunker Brock chipped in 2 points apiece.
Warren County played Saturday at home against Shelbyville, but the game wasn’t completed at press time. The Pioneers are set to visit Moore County Monday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.