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Tough times continue for Pioneers

Kaden Rutledge had 17 points in Smithville (PBM photo)

Coach Danny Fish and the Pioneers late-game bad luck continued Friday night as the team lost 68-66 to Dekalb County. The loss snaps a 14-game win streak for Warren County over the Tigers.

Kaden Rutledge finished with a team-high 17 points, but his potential game winner fell just short at the buzzer. It was the second time last week where Warren County had tough luck late - the Pioneers also lost 54-53 last week.

After one quarter of play, the Pioneers were down 10, 23-13. Coach Fish knew he needed a spark and he turned to three young guys - Aaron Templeton, Devin Fish and Carter Simpson - in the second quarter. The trio led the way as Warren County stormed back in the second to go into the locker room down 36-33. 

“I think it’s a good thing that we have some younger guys that are stepping up,” said Fish. “Templeton, Simpson and Fish have given us some good minutes on the floor.”

With the youth movement starting in earnest already, coach Fish also spoke on the talent waiting their turn on the freshman and JV teams. “We are playing a full freshman and JV schedule. Because of this, we are able to develop our younger guys a couple of different ways with experience sooner rather than later. Experience is the greatest teacher.”

Warren County (0-5) continued the momentum in the third, making the game a slugfest. Rutledge, emerging as a senior leader, nailed a deep three from the wing to give the Pioneers their first lead of the night, 44-42, with 2:37 to go in the quarter. The Tigers, however, never flinched and kept the deficit at two going into the fourth, 48-46.

Early in the fourth, Warren County started to take control on the inside and forced a Dekalb timeout when Rutledge took a Pioneer steal coast to coast, giving Warren County a 53-48 lead with 5:57 left in the game.

Things were looking good for Warren County at that moment and the Pioneers were still in good shape late with the ball with 1:23 left and leading 64-61. That's where things started to unravel for Warren County. DeKaleb County tied the game when Connor Close got a steal and an and-1 layup that tied the game after Close hit the free throw.

The Tigers capitalized on a couple late turnovers by Warren County that ultimately led to Dekalb pulling out the win 68-66. Coach Fish’s message after the game to his team was just to keep buying into what he is saying and don't get discouraged by these game experiences preparing his team for district play.

“This is a young team based on experience. We only have two returning starters from a year ago. New coach, new system, new faces - (there has been) a lot of change for our guys and I think they have handled that great,” said Fish. “We will keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep grinding. We could easily be 3-2 right now and everybody would be feeling pretty good but we also have to identify why we are not and put that into practice plans throughout the week. This week's focus at practice will be late game situations on offense and defensively shutting down the paint and rebounding.”

The road doesn’t get any easier for Fish and the Pioneers as they head into Sparta Tuesday night for a matchup with the former district rival. The Warriors are rolling at 3-0 led by high-flying Japheth Richmond and sniper Jake Davis.

“For us, it will be a measuring stick,” said Fish. “We have played a very tough schedule so far so hopefully each game prepares for the next. White is very good this year. Sparta won their district tourney last year with all players returning. They can shoot and are long and, of course, playing at Sparta is always a tough environment but with that being said it’s games like this that just prepare us for the district schedule after the New Year.”

Carter Simpson scored his first varsity points last week (PBM photo)

Tuesday night is gonna be a big time game for two teams that have a lot of history in the last few years. If you can't make the trip to Sparta on Tuesday you can stay up to date on The WCSA Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Warren County scoring:

Kaden Rutlege: 17

Nate Elrod: 12

Alex van Vuuren: 8

Devin Fish: 8

Treyton Terry: 6

Braylon Grayson: 6

Sawyer Seymour: 5

Carter Simpson: 4

Dekalb County scoring:

Connor Close: 28

Zack Birbingham: 14

Elishah Ramos: 11

Stetson Agee: 9

Alex Antoniak: 4

Ean Jones: 2

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