It may be a good thing the Warren County basketball teams have a week off before district play. They’re going to need the break to regroup.
The Pioneers and Lady Pioneers had a rough night at Upperman Tuesday, with the boys falling 71-49 and the girls dropping a 68-30 contest. It was the fourth loss in five games for the Pioneers, while the Lady Pioneers have lost four straight to start the new year.
The Pioneers, who are now 10-8 after starting the season 7-2, led at halftime 30-28 before the Bees swarmed in the third quarter. Upperman outscored Warren County 23-7 in the third quarter, helping the home squad cruise to its second blowout of the Pioneers this season. The Bees beat Warren County 68-45 at Charlie Dalton Gym in early December.
“A tale of two halves – we played a really good half of basketball and followed up with a five-minute stretch where we just didn’t do what is needed to do to win games against quality teams,” said Pioneer coach Chris Sullens. “I have to do a better job of keeping our team focused, whether it is in transition on defense, offensive execution or communication on out-of-bounds plays.
“These are things we’re trying to correct. At times, we are fully engaged, but this group can’t be halfway in. We stick our foot in the water to see the temperature instead of going all in and committing to what we expect.”
Lacedrick ‘Red’ Cox continued his resurgent scoring of late, tallying at team-high 14 points. Cox has led the team in scoring in each of its last three games after going a stretch of six games where he scored just 20 points. Cox is third on the team in scoring currently, averaging 9.1 points per game.
Aiden Cummings added 12 points, while Dee Spates scored eight. CJ Taylor and Irving Espinoza, the team’s top two scorers, were held to five and two points, respectively.
Next up for the Pioneers is White County Tuesday in the district opener for both teams. The Warriors beat Warren County 72-54 in the Sonic Shootout finals, but Sullens is hopeful he can improve his performance to get his team regrouped before the big games begin.
“There’s still many games to be played and not one district game has been put in the win or loss column. I do have some concerns as a group on a nightly basis. It’s my job to get them to play at a higher level and right now I’m not doing my job,” said Sullens.
Again short-handed, the Lady Pioneers were unable to topple the 15-2 Lady Bees.
Warren County (2-15) had been bolstered by the returns of Hallie Jo Pennington and Jaden Smartt in recent competitive losses, but the team played its first game without starting PG Kam Nowlin Tuesday. An illness kept Nowlin, the team’s second leading scorer, from playing on the road.
The Lady Pioneers struggled to keep up with one of the teams in the Midstate without one of their floor generals, falling behind 32-9 by halftime and never cutting into the lead in the second half.
It was a tough blow for Warren County, especially after encouraging outings against Cannon County and Livingston Academy in previous outings.
“Anytime you face Upperman, it’s an opportunity to play the best and see where you need to improve,” said coach Anthony Lippe. “We have made huge strides this season. We are going to keep pushing to get better each game.”
The Lady Pioneers will enter Tuesday’s district game at White County looking to snap an 11-game losing streak in district matchups, including tournament games. The Warren County girls last defeated a district opponent Feb. 16, 2018, beating Cookeville 54-42 in the opening round of the District 6AAA tournament.