By TONY STINNETT/ Courier Sports Editor
Abby Jakes' 3-pointer won the game.
ENGLEWOOD - Time didn’t run out on Cannon County’s season.
Abby Jakes made sure of it.
Jakes’ controversial 3-pointer from 30 feet away as the buzzer sounded lifted No. 6 Cannon County to a stunning 57-56 win against No. 3 McMinn Central in front of a standing-room only crowd here Saturday (March 2).
Jakes, who scored nine points, got the final shot off just as the final horn sounded to send the Lionettes back to the TSSAA Class AA State Championship for the second time in three years and the 11th time in school history.
The Lionettes (28-6) will face Christian Academy of Knoxville (24-7) in the TSSAA Class AA quarterfinals at MTSU’s Murphy Center Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
In addition to Jakes’ 9, Cannon County two-time Miss Basketball finalist Abbey Sissom led the Lionettes with 17 points. Jordan Hollis finished with seven, Ashley Basham netted five, Rebekah Faulkner four, Madison Walkup three and Emily Pemberton two.
Cannon County trailed 56-54 with 6.2 seconds remaining when the ball was inbounded to Sissom. Sissom dribbled toward mid-court where she was met by two Chargerette defenders.
Sissom passed the ball ahead to a wide-open Jakes, whose 30-foot prayer was answered as the horn sounded.
The game-winner sent the Lionettes into a frenzied celebration on the court, where they were joined by several fans who had made the trip from Woodbury.
“As soon as I took the shot and saw the rim I knew it was going in,” said Jakes, who came up with two clutch 3-pointers in the final quarter. “I just didn’t know if it would count because I heard the buzzer going off while the shot was in the air. I looked at the ref and he had his hands up so I knew we were going to state. I was just hoping the shot would go in and it did. What a feeling.”
Sissom said she saw Jakes come open and realized there was time on the clock when Jakes received the pass.
It turned into Sissom’s biggest assist and Jakes’ biggest shot this season.
“We were focused and we were prepared to win this game,” said Sissom, who was 5-of-6 from 3-point range. “I saw Abby wide open and when she got the pass I saw there was still time on the clock. It was close but she got it off.”
Cannon County eighth-year Head Coach Michael Dodgen, who has guided the Lionettes to two of their 11 state tournament appearances, said he believed the shot was good.
McMinn Central coach Johnny Morgan didn’t.
The officials sided with Dodgen.
“From my perspective the shot was good,” Dodgen said. “We work on those shots in practice, game winners from halfcourt. We knew someone would be open because they were going to trap (Sissom) and not let her get the shot off. That left (Jakes) free and she caught the ball and shot it. She was well within her range. It was just like I drew it up in the timeout (laughing).”
If not for the outstanding hustle and defense of Ashley Basham, the late-second heroics may not have been necessary.
Leading 55-54, McMinn’s Sidni Williams stole the ball with less than 10 seconds remaining and was headed for an easy layup. Basham ran her down, fouled Williams and made her earn the points at the free-throw line.
Williams missed the first and made the second to give Cannon County a final shot - and time to set up the final game-winning play.
Basham’s defense on Elizabeth Masengil - McMinn Central’s Class AA Miss Basketball finalist - was outstanding in the second half. Macy Clements held her in check during a strong second-quarter defensive effort.
Masengil finished with 19 but she scored 12 of them in the first half before Basham clamped down on her in the second.
The Lionettes led 26-21 at halftime and ran out to a 13-point lead in the second half before Central put together a spirited comeback that saw them take the lead.
The Cannon County win ended a string of five straight Class AA State Tournament appearances for McMinn Central and dealt the Chargerettes their first home loss of 2012-13 and only their fifth home loss in the last seven years.
“Our girls came into arguably the toughest place in Tennessee to get a win and they did it,” Dodgen said. “I can’t be more proud of this group of young ladies than I am right now. Not many people gave us a chance but these ladies and the fans who made the trip believed.”