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Top stories in Warren County sports
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WCHS basketball reaches sectionals

For only the second time in school history, a Warren County High School boys basketball team reached the sectional round of postseason play.

It was the first time in 45 years a Pioneer team had advanced so deep in tournament play, just one win from the state tournament.

A phenomenal performance from Pioneer senior C.J. Taylor catapulted the Pioneers to sectionals.

Taylor led the way with a game-high 37 points, which included draining six 3-pointers in the final four minutes of regulation, as the Pioneers beat East Hamilton 75-66 in overtime of the region tournament.

“That’s as good a performance as I’ve seen in the last three minutes with our execution, and C.J. Taylor, what else can you say?” said WCHS coach Chris Sullens after the East Hamilton comeback win. “The kid hit shot after shot after shot after shot.”

Sullens added, “I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ll tell you what C.J. told me. He said, ‘Coach you wouldn’t want to coach against me.’ He’s right. I’m glad he’s a Warren County Pioneer.”

Also included in the postseason memories was a district tournament championship, the second straight for the WCHS boys.

The Pioneers beat White County in the district finals, 73-65, as tournament MVP Dee Spates carried Warren County down the stretch.

Spates made seemingly every big play when it mattered. He broke backcourt pressure, made key passes to his teammates for layups, and even went coast-to-coast on one play in taking control of the game.

In the sectional game in March, the Pioneers ran into a steamroller of a team as Siegel High School defeated Warren County 72-58 in Murfreesboro.

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C.J. goes to Vandy

Wednesday, Feb. 3 was another big day in the phenomenal high school career of Warren County superstar C.J. Taylor.

After considering several college offers, C.J. signed to play football at Vanderbilt University. The signing ceremony took place at The Dalt. It was a milestone C.J. shared with family, coaches and friends. His mother was by his side, and his late brother, Dominque, was there in spirit.

C.J. was a big reason the Pioneer football team started the 2020 football season 8-0. He picked up the school’s first Mr. Football trophy in the process for his ability to single-handedly dominate a football game.

As a freshman at Vanderbilt, C.J. appeared in nine games. One of those was Vanderbilt’s game against the Vols in Knoxville. C.J. is credited with 1 solo tackle and 2 assisted tackles for the season.

Said C.J. in a November interview with the Standard, “You have to bring it every day. If you don’t, your spot is gone. That is my way out, and that is what I want to do. If I want to make it to the NFL, if I cannot beat my teammates and make them better, then I am not doing what I need to do to make it to the next level.”

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Giant leap for Elam

WCMS eighth-grader Dyson Elam won the middle school state championship in high jump on Saturday, May 22, clearing an even 6 feet to win the title at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville.

Elam is the only Warren County Middle School athlete to win a state championship.

“It’s a huge deal,” said WCMS track coach Mendy Stotts. “In addition to winning the state, he came 1 inch away from tying the state record, which is 6-1 in the high jump. It was a great day for him. He beat his personal best by 6 inches.”

The jump gave Elam the all-time school record for WCMS in high jump. Dyson breaks a record which was held by his brother, Dante.

At the state tournament, Dyson failed at his first attempt at 6-0. He cleared the bar on his second try. Stotts says Dyson barely missed at 6-1 in an effort to tie the state record.

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Gillentine pins down medal

Ike Gillentine was the lone Pioneer wrestler to reach the state wrestling tournament in Chattanooga in February.

Gillentine, who is like a piece of iron on the wrestling mat, finished 3-3 at the state tournament to earn a sixth-place medal.

“It’s a dream I’ve always wanted to accomplish and I finally did it thanks to two of the best coaches anyone could ask for,” said Gillentine. “They do everything in the world just so I could have this opportunity.”

The two coaches Gillentine refers to are head Pioneer wrestling coach Matt Turner and assistant head coach Robert Piche. Both coaches accompanied Gillentine to Chattanooga and were by his side the entire wrestling season.

Gillentine had to work to finish as the No. 6-ranked 195-pound wrestler in the state. He went 3-3 against the best Tennessee high school wrestlers in his third trip to the state tournament. This year was the first time he came home with a medal.

As a team, Pioneer wrestling finished runner-up in the district and fourth in the region.

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Slatton soars to sixth

Warren County High School golfer Lauren Slatton finished sixth out of 60 females competing in the TSSAA State Golf Tournament in Sevierville in early October.

Slatton was in third place after the first round with a 2 over par, 72. On Tuesday, Slatton shot a 76, 6 over par, for a total score of 148.

“I am glad that I improved over last year, which was my main goal,” said Slatton. “The TSSAA State Tournament is one of the most challenging tournaments of the year.” Last year at the state tournament, Slatton finished 12th with a score of 152. This year was a big improvement for the sophomore who was second in her region and first in the district.

WCHS golf coach, J.W. Holt said, “I am very proud of her, and all of her accomplishments this year. She is a very determined player, and that will definitely pay off for her in the future. I think that she will build off this season and become even better next year.”

The best score at the girls state tournament was 136.

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Baseball team wins district

The WCHS Pioneer baseball team shut out White County in Sparta for a 13-0 victory that gave the Pioneers the regular season 6-AAA District title.

Starting pitcher John Garrett played a big role in the win. Offensively, Jace Brantley hit a home run and had 4 RBIs, and Braden Bottoms had 4 hits.

Garrett and Layne Roberts emerged as the top two pitchers for the Pioneers during the district run.

Bottoms was a solid force behind the plate, calling good games for the pitchers, and he led the team in batting average.

Warren County was helped with productivity at the plate up and down the lineup from spots 1-9. Kason Holder, Ty Martin and Wyatt Wilson were a few of the other standouts in district play.

It was the first full season for Pioneer coach Phillip King and he guided Warren County to 22 wins. King grew up in McMinnville and played for the Pioneers when he was in high school. King picked up his 300th career win during the 2021 season.

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WCHS softball district co-champs

The WCHS softball team finished the regular season 7-1 in district competition to finish tied with White County as regular- season co-champions.

The Lady Pioneers won the tiebreaker with White County to enter the district tournament as the No. 1 seed.

Unfortunately for Warren County, the Lady Pioneers failed to advance out of the district tournament when their bats went silent.

Pitching ace Madison Hollis was a big reason for the team’s regular-season success. Hollis is preparing to begin her senior year for the softball team in 2022. She has already received interest from colleges.

“I have an offer, and I have been talking to two other colleges,” said Hollis in May. “My offer is from Cleveland State. I have a really good connection with their head coach. He has been my hitting instructor since I was in fifth grade.”

Rhealee Johnson smashed 6 home runs during the regular season and was another Lady Pioneer standout. Sadie Simmons was another key contributor for coaching veteran Gooby Martin.

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Lady Pioneers off to fantastic start

The WCHS Lady Pioneer basketball team won two overtime games on the way to capturing first place in the 15th annual Sonic Shootout held at White County High School in December.

Warren County took the top spot in the tournament after beating White County in the championship, 72-71, in overtime.

In the final moments, Lady Pioneer Shelby Smartt produced with the game on the line. She landed a crucial jump shot to account for the winning basket.

Kyra Perkins finished as tournament MVP. Lady Pioneers making the all-tournament team were Mia Hobbs, Brienne Kelsey, Shelby Smartt and Sable Winfree.

Head coach Anthony Lippe has the Lady Pioneers playing at a high level. At the guard position, Sable Winfree and Shelby Smartt have been able to control tempo. Perkins seems to do most everything and Hobbs is a nice fit as an all-around solid player.

Including a win Wednesday in a Christmas tournament in Tampa, the Lady Pioneers are off to a 12-2 start, the team’s best start in over two decades.

Heading into a Friday night game in Tampa, the Lady Pioneers had won eight straight and had not lost the entire month of December. Warren County’s last loss was Nov. 30 against White County, 57-47, in a game played at Charlie Dalton Gym.

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Lady Broncos come out of gates strong

The Boyd Lady Broncos looked unstoppable as they won their first 14 games of the season, most in convincing fashion.

The closest game for the Lady Broncos during that span was 19 points, which happened twice in both games against Bledsoe County.

Playing without two starters in a Christmas tournament in Dyersburg, Boyd suffered its first loss this past Tuesday, but the Lady Broncos quickly recovered and won Wednesday. However, they suffered another loss Thursday and now stand 15-2 overall.

It’s been a season where nearly everything has gone right, or rather Wright.

Lia Wright has been an all-star for the Lady Broncos and is usually the most athletic player on the floor. She can shoot, dribble and rebound.

Point guard Laney Copeland is a newcomer to the team and she’s made a huge impact with her scoring and leadership. Anna Jones has fine-tuned her game to be a force under the basket and behind the 3-point line. Audrey Durham has been effective slashing to the basket.

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WCHS football wins in Cookeville

The Warren County Pioneer football team won for the first time in Cookeville since the 1987 season.

The Pioneers won 21-14 behind three total TDs from QB Nate Elrod, including a 55-yard return of a fumble.

The Pioneers were down 7-0 with only 34 seconds left in the first half when two Cookeville turnovers helped the Pioneers score 13 points and take a 13-7 lead at halftime.

The first turnover was a mishandled punt by Cookeville that was recovered by Pioneer Tavion Miller on the Cavalier 13-yard line. The Pioneers put a quick drive together and Elrod punched the ball in on a 1-yard QB sneak.

Instead of kneeling down to run out the first half, Cookeville tried to score before the half and the Cavaliers fumbled the ball. It was scooped up by Elrod who scampered to pay dirt.

In the second half, Elrod scored on a 6-yard run, then connected with Jaythan Pleasant for the 2-point conversion to go up 21-7.

Cookeville scored with less than three minutes to go to account for the 21-14 final margin.

In addition to being a rare win in Cookeville, it was also a region win. That one region victory was enough to advance Warren County to the playoffs. The Pioneers finished the season 1-9.