Wins are always nice but district victories carry even more weight so Cannon County's basketball doubleheader sweep of 8-AA newcomer Murfreesboro Central Magnet was doubly delightful at Robert A. Harris Gymnasium Tuesday.
Both Cannon County teams rebounded from losses in their district opener at Upperman last Friday. The Lionettes (7-1, 1-1) recovered from their only setback by trouncing Central, 64-37, and the Lions (3-5, 1-1) rolled to a 62-25 victory in the nightcap.
"It is always important to get a win and the fact it is a district win makes it even better," Lionettes Head Coach Michael Dodgen said. "We did not come out with the right energy to start the game, but we did get it going in the second half."
An already young Cannon County boys team featured a more youthful look at the outset as four sophomores and a freshman were in the starting lineup. Freshman Garrett McReynolds made his first career start and was on the court with a quartet of sophomores.
"We are still trying to find that mix. It was time to shake things up a little bit and see what happens," said Lions Head Coach Matt Rigsby, whose team had lost three straight and four of five prior to Tuesday's impressive win against the visiting Tigers. "We had a couple who did not start due to coach's decision and we will leave it at that, but I was proud of the way the guys responded."
Cory Henley led a balanced Cannon County offense with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting. The sophomore standout also dished out five assists and collected three steals in a solid effort. Justin Tobin and Zach Higgins scored nine each, Brad Hutchins added seven and Tanner Larson finished with five.
Cannon County was strong on the boards, outrebounding the Tigers by an almost 2-to-1 margin. The Lions yanked 35 caroms, led by Hutchins' seven and Larson's five. The Lions defense also was spectacular. Cannon County was first to a majority of 50-50 balls and held Central to just nine total field goals.
"We did what we were supposed to do and we played well," Rigsby said. "We showed a willingness to rebound, defend, play with great effort, execute, share the ball, all the things that matter. Now, can we sustain that and stay consistent?"
The Lionettes repeated what has become a recent trend by starting slow and coming out strong in the second half. Although Cannon County led 32-11 against the young Lady Tigers, the play was lackluster.
"The first half was sloppy," said sophomore Abbey Sissom, who led all scorers with 27 points on 9-of-17 shooting. "We got it turned around in the second half, but we have to come out better. We are glad to bounce back and get the district win."
In addition to Sissom's 27, Lindsey Reed poured in 19, to go along with her five rebounds, four steals and two assists. Sophomore Macy Clements finished with eight points on 4-of-6 shooting and four steals.
Joanna Young had another balanced attack and made her presence felt all over the court with five steals, four assists and five rebounds. Jordan Hollis dished out seven assists from her guard position.
Cannon County started the second half on a 9-0 run to stretch the lead to 34-15 and continued to pull away. The Lionettes held Central scoreless the first four-plus minutes of the third quarter and eventually built as much as a 40-point lead.
Sissom was 7-of-10 from the field in the second half, including five straight points to start the third quarter and ignite the decisive run. Reed also created havoc during the run as she came up with numerous deflections and loose balls.
"It is not characteristic of us to start slow," Dodgen said. "We usually start strong. That's a characteristic of our teams. We have to figure it out and get better. I am proud of the effort. Abbey was wanting the ball and her teammates did a good job of getting her the ball and creating shots for her. Lindsey Reed shot better than 50 percent and scored 19. When your two leading scorers do that you should win."
Cannon County travels to York Institute for District 8-AA action Friday.
Full recaps of each game will appear in the Dec. 13 print edition of The Cannon Courier.