It’s been called creative scheduling and it’s been called a youth movement, but whatever the case, the Warren County High School Lady Pioneers enter District 6-AAA play with the most wins for the second straight season.
Warren County finished 2012 with a 12-8 record, winning one more game than the White County Warriorettes (11-4) and two more than the Cookeville Lady Cavaliers (10-7).
Pulling out 12 wins was something few would have predicted for the Lady Pioneers, the team selected to finish last in the district at media day before the start of the season.
Coach Erick Baird believes his team is ready to start district play tonight against Coffee County at home, but whether the wins keep piling up will be determined by his team’s ability to keep up with veteran teams.
“I’ve really liked the way we’ve prepared for district play,” said Baird. “Mentally and physically, I believe we’re ready. The test will be to see how we perform against teams who bring everybody back.
“We’re a young team and teams like Cookeville, Coffee County and White County have a lot of district experience.”
Competition should be fierce once play gets under way tonight. Warren County plays host to the Lady Raiders while Cumberland County welcomes the Lady Cavaliers.
While fans got a good look at Cookeville at the Sun Drop Romp Christmas tournament, watching the Lady Cavaliers play an epic overtime game against Cannon County in the finals, none of the district teams have matched up against each other in tournament play.
Tonight’s game will begin a grueling stretch for the Lady Pioneers where Warren County plays eight of its last 10 games against district foes. A home game against DeKalb County Jan. 15 and a road game at Cannon County Feb. 1 will break up the stretch of District 6-AAA matchups.
The most memorable game for the Lady Pioneers thus far was a monumental home victory over the Cannon County Lady Lions Dec. 14, a win coach Baird called the biggest in his coaching career.
Beating a top 10 team in the state showed what a young Warren County team, led in scoring by sophomores Bri Melton and Brittany Myers, can do.
Coach Baird also saw in tough losses to Tullahoma that being young can take its toll.
“We’re looking for consistency from a group of young girls,” said Baird. “We’ve seen what can happen when we play well like in the Cannon County game. We’ve also seen what happens when we struggle like on the nights we played Tullahoma.
“We’re looking to get the same effort and execution on a nightly basis. If we can do that, we can compete with anybody.”
The Lady Pioneers have been streaky this season, winning five of their first six games before losing five of their next seven.
Warren County was able to keep its winning record through the holidays with five wins in two tournaments. The Lady Pioneers went 3-1 in the Sun Drop Romp tournament, beating Gabriel Christian, Grundy County and Notre Dame.
Warren County followed it up by winning two of three games in the Wildcat Classic held in Hixson.
The Lady Pioneers have compiled 12 wins without having a dominant scorer or a veteran team like the other top squads in District 6-AAA.
Melton currently averages 10.3 points per game, followed by Myers at 7.1 points per game. Junior Jessie Newby has picked up her scoring of late, bringing her average to 5.3 points per game while leading the team in scoring twice during tournament play.
The contributions have come from everywhere. Senior posts Megan Dishman and Rachel Nokes have been rotating time in the starting lineup, neither effected by being the sixth man when called upon. Junior point guard Camerie Martin was named to the all-tournament team in Hixson and junior guards Lexy and Zaya Holmes were a spark off the bench in the Wildcat Classic.
It will be more team efforts needed to knock off the likes of White County, led by Loren Foster, and District 6-AAA player of the year favorite Hannah Goolsby and the Lady Cavaliers.
Tonight’s game against Coffee County at Charlie Dalton Gym begins at 6 p.m.