By CHIP CIRILLO, Courier Sports Writer
Cannon County's girls and boys basketball teams find themselves in similar situations entering the early portion of their schedules.
Both teams enjoyed memorable seasons last year, but graduation took a heavy toll as each squad returns only one starter.
The Lionettes made it to the first round of the Class AA girls tournament last year, but point guard Erin McReynolds is the only returning starter from that 33-5 team.
Cannon County's boys set a school record for wins after going 27-8 last season, but Erin's brother Garrett McReynolds is the only starter back.
"It's pretty sad (to lose those starters), but I believe in the players we have that are back up to play this year," Erin McReynolds said. "I'm pretty confident that we'll do good."
The Lionettes are off to a 2-0 start with wins over Brainerd and Franklin County despite losing four starters who are now playing in college. The biggest loss was Class AA Miss Basketball Abbey Sissom, now at Middle Tennessee State.
Cannon County's seniors have won 90 games, including three state tournament appearances in the past four years.
"We've had about an eight-year run that will spoil a coach," Lionettes coach Michael Dodgen said. "You've just got to keep getting better and these kids have the foundation laid for them. They've just got to keep continuing what was put in front of them."
Expectations run high at Cannon County, which has made 14 state tournament appearances, including a Class AA title in 1989.
Livingston Academy and Central Magnet appear to be the teams to beat in District 8-AA, which has sent at least one team to the state tournament in 15 of the last 16 years.
Kristen Hale, Kellie Davis, Kendra Maynard and Autumn King figure to play major roles for the Lionettes. Davis leads the team in scoring at 15 points per game, followed closely by King (11 ppg), Maynard (11 ppg), Hale (10 ppg) and Erin McReynolds (9 ppg).
Malegh Scott, Haylee Mooneyham and Kaylee Hayes are likely to contribute as well.
Cannon County's boys made it to the Region 4-AA semifinals last year.
The Lions pride themselves on defense with lots of pressing. Much of their offense comes off opponents' turnovers.
"We try to get up and down a little bit," Cannon County boys coach Matt Rigsby said. "We're still working on some depth issues. We'd like to press more."
Livingston Academy, which made it to the sectional last year, is the district's preseason favorite.
Rigsby believes the Lions (1-1) have good potential despite the graduation of four starters.
"The athleticism is there," said Rigsby, a former Lions player. "If there's been a team with more length to be put on the floor for Cannon County, I don't remember it. We have awesome, coachable kids who expect to win and are knowledgeable about the game. So there's no reason we shouldn't do good things this year."
Seniors Jacob Nave, Josh Ruehlen, Marshall McReynolds, Garrett McReynolds and A.J. Daniel should lead the way. Junior Austin Martin, the team's tallest post player at 6-foot-5, should provide a strong presence inside. Junior Briar Jakes is likely to earn a spot in the rotation.
"It's tough (losing four starters), but we're a very veteran team," said Ruehlen, a point guard who leads the Lions in scoring at 16 ppg. "We've got a bunch of upperclassmen and five starting seniors. We'll make it work."
Nave is averaging 13.5 ppg and both McReynolds are averaging 8.5 ppg.
"That's one good thing about us offensively - we've had really good balance the first two games," Rigsby said.
Cannon Co. 26 12 12 17--67
Brainerd 2 13 10 8--33
Cannon Co.: Erin McReynolds 8, Kristen Hale 12, Kellie Davis 17, Autumn King 12, Kendra Maynard 13, Kaylee Hayes 3, Malegh Scott 2.
Steals: McReynolds 4, Davis 4. Assists: McReynolds 8. Rebounds: King 7. 3-pointers: Hale 4 Maynard 3, Davis 2, Hayes 1.
Cannon Co. 18 13 13 10--54
Franklin Co. 5 14 11 13--43
Cannon Co.: Erin McReynolds 11, Kristen Hale 8, Kellie Davis 13, Autumn King 12, Kendra Maynard 8, Haylee Mooneyham 2.
Assists: McReynolds 5. Rebounds Maynard 11. 3-pointers: Hale 2, Davis 2.
Cannon Co. 9 12 20 17--58
Brainerd 6 21 18 18--70
Cannon Co.: AJ Daniel 8, Garrett McReynolds 1, Marshall McReynolds 8, Jacob Nave 11, Josh Ruehlen 15, Briar Jakes 7, Austin Martin 8.
Rebounds: Ruehlen 6. 3-pointers: Ruehlen 1, Jakes 2.
Cannon Co. 18 15 21 18--72
Franklin Co. 18 19 11 9--57
Cannon Co.: AJ Daniel 5, Josh Ruehlen 17, Marshall McReynolds 9, Jacob Nave 16, Garrett McReynolds 16, Austin Martin 9.
Franklin Co.: Clayton Jackson 9, Jace Smith 3, Justin Smith 2, Tyreke Hayworth 2, Hunter Watson 10, Luke Limbaugh 1, Dre Braston 13, Draven Tate 4, Cody Lester 13, Draven Tate 4, Cody Lester 13.
3-pointers: CC-Ruehlen 1, M. McReynolds 2; FC-Jackson 3, Ja. Smith 1, Braston 4.