For the first time in 45 years, the Warren County Pioneer basketball team is playing in the TSSAA Sectionals.
The game was called the substate in 1976, and the Region 4-AAA champion Pioneers played Howard in Chattanooga. Jimmy Blankenship’s Pioneers lost that game 86-70 to end their season with a 24-4 record.
The 2020-21 Pioneers bring a 19-7 record to the sectionals as Region 3-AAA runner-up, and they hope to win and advance to the eight-team TSSAA State Tournament.
The Pioneers are coming off two weeks of intense tournament play that includes a district and region tournament. The Pioneers defeated Cookeville, White County, McMinn County, and East Hamilton before falling to Cleveland on Thursday night. Sixteen teams across Tennessee are playing in sectionals across the state to qualify for the TSSAA state tournament scheduled to begin March 18.
WCHS coach Chris Sullens is glad to be in this position. Sullens said, “The East Hamilton game took a lot out of us. We were just slow Thursday night. You could tell -- and credit to Cleveland. They flat out whipped us. Thursday night is over. After Friday night, eight teams will have won, and eight teams will have lost. All 16 have the same opportunity Monday night. Many more would love to be where we are at this moment.”
The region championship game was not a do-or-die game. Both teams in that game advance to sectionals. Warren County advances with four All-Region 3-AAA tournament players that include C.J. Taylor, Dee Spates, Aiden Cummings, and Kaden Rutledge. The Pioneers can take advantage of a few days rest after intense tournament games.
The high school will have a virtual pep rally in the Dalt on Monday during school. The band and cheerleaders will be with the team and WCSTV will broadcast the event live to classroom and on YouTube. This is the link: https://youtu.be/rcY8jnkJ97U
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The team bus will be escorted from the school to downtown by police on the way to Monday night’s game. The bus will leave the high school at 4:15 p.m., and should be downtown at approximately 4:30 p.m.
WCHS athletic director Todd Willmore has spoken to Siegel's AD and been informed all spectators will be required to wear masks at all times. The game will be stopped if masks are removed, according to the Siegel AD. The plan is to admit 600 fans.