Before long, they are going to have to change the name of the Tiger Den to the Pioneer Palace. Warren County has taken ownership of the border battle on the hardwood.
The Pioneers beat DeKalb County for the ninth straight time Monday night, using an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter to prevail 72-59.
“This team will spurt you … they’re kind of like the team two years ago where at any point in time you can go on a 10-, 12-, 14-0 run,” said Pioneer coach Chris Sullens. “We’ve encouraged our team to understand that you’re never too good, but you’re also never out of a basketball game.”
Lacedrick ‘Red’ Cox had a season-high 24 points, while CJ Taylor scored 16 and Dee Spates came off the bench to add 15 as the Pioneers won their third straight after falling in the season opener last week. All three were vital in the final quarter as Warren County turned a tight game into a blowout in a matter of seconds.
Warren County was leading 59-55 after two Taylor free throws and a run-out layup from Spates broke a tie with four minutes to play. Sullens looked to settle his team with a timeout at the 2:44 mark, coming just after DeKalb County missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
The missed foul shot seemed to flip the switch for the Pioneers.Spates hit a runner out of the break, then Taylor swiped a pass and pushed the pace to force a two-on-one. Taylor wasn’t able to finish the layup, but Spates got the easy putback.
After another steal, the Pioneers sped up the court and were able to find Irving Espinoza wide open in the corner. He drilled a 3-pointer in front of his bench, giving the Pioneers eight points in a span of 50 seconds.
“We wanted to make sure we were in our right defense and everybody was in the right position,” said Sullens about his late timeout. “Thought if we could get a stop, they were getting a little tired and we’d be able to get to the middle of the floor.”
Cox added four late free throws, silencing a rowdy Tiger crowd which had hopes of an upset when DeKalb County got rolling in the third quarter.
The Pioneers led 38-29 at halftime, but a sloppy last 30 seconds gave the Tigers two easy layups and the momentum at the break. It carried over when the teams returned to the court.
DeKalb County opened the second half with a 16-6 run to take the lead, highlighted by a big block and 3-pointer from post Dallas Cook.
“DeKalb County did an excellent job of putting us in a bad spot. They packed in their zone and dared us to shoot,” said Sullens. “Every team is going to be bigger and stronger at a lot of positions each night. What we have to do is use our speed to our advantage to grind teams down. I think we did that late against DeKalb County.”
For most of the first half, it didn’t look like the Pioneers would need any late runs. Warren County built a 14-point lead in the first quarter, getting three 3-pointers in a row at one point from Cox, Spates and freshman Kaden Rutledge.
The Tigers were able to steal some momentum at the buzzer when Jordan Young banked in a heave from halfcourt.
Taylor kept the Tigers at bay most of the second quarter, scoring six points in the period on strong forays to the rim, often finishing over DeKalb County’s pair of 6-foot-6 posts.
Warren County will be off the rest of the week. The Pioneers are set to make their home debut Monday, Dec. 2 against Upperman.