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Sullens, Lippe ready to get started
Hallie Pennington 1.jpg
Senior Hallie Jo Pennington is one of the few Lady Pioneers returning with varsity playing experience.
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Senior Lacedrick 'Red' Cox will be counted on to provide 3-point shooting for this year's Pioneer squad.

Chris Sullens keeps hearing everybody talk about how good the Pioneers are going to be. Even opposing coaches are praising his players.

At Monday's District 6AAA media day, Sullens told everybody he's taking a wait-and-see approach before buying into any preseason hype.

"The kids are telling me how good we are, but I want to get started and see," said Sullens. "Coach (Eric) Mitchell always does a good job telling CJ (Taylor) he's James Harden."

Taylor is a linchpin for the Pioneers, who were picked to finish third in the season by the coaches and fourth by the media. The returning junior scored 15.6 points per game last year, which helped earn him all-district accolades.

Senior sharpshooter Lacederick 'Red' Cox is also back after earning all-district honors. 

Warren County also expects to get a big boost from Blackman transfer Dee Spates. The junior is likely to step into the starting point guard spot when the team makes its debut Tuesday, Nov. 19 in the Hall of Champions event at Community High School.

The Pioneers will be chasing Mitchell's White County Warriors, who were selected first in both the coaches and media poll. Helping their cause is the return of last year's District 6AAA player of the year Grant Slatton.

One unknown on the boys side could be Cookeville under new coach Josh Heard. Even the new leader of the Cavaliers is unsure what to make of his team.

"You (coaches) know more about my team than I do. . . I don't know what style we'll play," said Heard.

On the girls side, every team returns a loaded roster except the Lady Pioneers.

New coach Anthony Lippe won't have to worry about big expectations in his first season - the Warren County girls were picked last in both polls. What he will have to deal with is what most think is one of the toughest districts in the state.

"Anybody can win night-in and night-out," said White County coach Michael Dodgen.

Stone Memorial coach Mike Buck concurred, saying, "this is a really good league with solid talent being led by good coaches."

One common theme is parents coaching their players on the girls side. Dodgen, Buck and Cookeville coach Jamie Gillies all have daughters on their teams.

Dodgen also has the services of former Boyd standout Alaina Stiles, the reigning district freshman of the year who may be better this year.

"Alaina's grown a little bit - she's gotten taller and put on some weight. I think it will help her deal with the physicality of the league," said Dodgen.

Lippe won't have the same luxury of returning talent, noting the Lady Pioneers lost 99 percent of their scoring from last year's 9-19 team which finished without a district victory.

Stone Memorial returns Gardner Webb commit Emma Capps, while two-time district player of the year Mallory Hampton - a Samford commit - is back at Rhea County.