It took Tucker Smith having the best four-minute stretch of his season for the Warren County High School boys basketball team to avoid an embarrassing loss on its home court to the Middle Tennessee Heat.
After leading by as many as 17 points in the first half, Warren County led by only one before Smith scored eight points in the final four minutes to lead the Pioneers past the Heat 58-51.
The Heat, a home-schooled team based out of Mt. Juliet, came in with a 5-4 record against competition from the Middle Tennessee Athletic Conference.
Warren County (4-3) looked like it had picked a pushover on “Whiteout” night when the Pioneers opened up a big lead.
Senior Thomas Locke, who earned his first start of the season, was the Pioneer who set off the toilet-paper throwing on Tuesday night.
Locke buried a 3-pointer from the right corner for Warren County’s first points and the fans immediately showered the court with toilet paper. The Pioneers were called for a technical foul and the Heat hit one free throw.
Locke was a big spark in his first start. He hit another 3-pointer a few minutes later as Warren County led 8-2 early.
After the Heat closed the gap to three, senior Hunter Adams sparked 10-0 run to end the first quarter.
Adams cut across the baseline with 2:20 to play and he caught a pass from Mitchell McCorkle. Adams avoided two shot blockers from the Heat by ducking under the basket and dropping in a reverse layup.
Lee Carden followed with a layup then the Pioneers rolled off six points in the final 40 seconds. Nick Simmons began the spurt with a tip-in. Hunter Daniel capitalized on a steal near midcourt to race in for a layup and Jacob Reagan closed out the first quarter with a layup as Warren County took a 19-6 lead.
Middle Tennessee twice cut the lead into single digits in the second quarter, but Daniel had two big plays to give Warren County a sizable halftime advantage.
Midway through the second, Locke and Daniel combined on a perfect set play to score. Locke took the ball on the left wing and drew two defenders with the dribble. Daniel worked on the opposite side and got a back screen to move uncontested to the bucket. Locke lofted a pass over the Heat defense to Daniel and he laid the ball in for a bucket.
Daniel then closed out the half by drilling a 3-pointer with 38.9 seconds to play as Warren County led 32-17 at halftime.
The advantage hit 17 when Locke opened the third quarter with two free throws, but the Pioneers went stagnant in the second half.
The Heat outscored the Pioneers 18-8 in the third quarter, including finishing the quarter on a 11-2 run, to close the gap to 40-35 entering the fourth.
Warren County pushed its lead back up to six with 6:31 to play on another reverse layup by Adams, but the Heat cut the lead in half with a 3-pointer on their next possession.
The Pioneers went into stall mode on their next few possessions to try to run the clock out on the Heat. The plan backfired as the Heat were able to get two steals and move to within one with a layup at the 4:24 mark.
Smith took matters into his own hands down the stretch. Smith forced the action while the Pioneer offense began to bog down.
Smith earned back-to-back trips to the free-throw line by going strong to the basket and the junior sank four free throws to put the Pioneers back up five with 2:33 to play.
The Pioneers looked poised to pick up their fourth win after Carden and Smith each split a pair of free throws to push the lead to seven with 1:16 left, but the Heat had one final push.
The Pioneers let August Schaete, who scored 20 points for the Heat, get into the teeth of the defense and score while being fouled. Schaete hit the free throw to make it a four-point game, but Smith had the answer.
Smith shut the door on the Heat by grabbing a rebound off a missed free throw and powering up for a layup while being hit by two Heat defenders. Smith completed his own three-point play to end any comeback hopes for the Heat.
Locke led the Pioneers with 12 points. Adams and Daniel scored 11 each while Smith scored all eight of his points in the final four minutes.
Warren County will return to action tonight when the team plays host to Franklin County. The Pioneers lost to the Rebels 70-63 earlier this season. The Lady Pioneers will tip-off at 6 p.m. and the boys game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.