TONY STINNETT/ Courier Sports Editor
Abbey Sissom and Abby Jakes combined for 33 points and shot down visiting Murfreesboro Central Magnet, 58-53, in a critical District 8-AA game at Robert A. Harris Gymnasium Tuesday (Jan. 22).
Sissom poured in 18 points and Jakes contributed 15, on the strength of four 3 -pointers, as the No. 6 Lionettes (20-3, 6-2) notched their 20th win of the season and kept alive their hopes of a regular-season district title.
Murfreesboro Central Magnet (19-4, 5-3) needed the road upset to gain ground and put itself in position to contend for the title.
“Central is an outstanding team and very well coached,” Cannon County Head Coach Michael Dodgen said. “That’s a big win against a quality team. Our kids really battled and competed and they had to in order to get this win.”
In addition to Sissom and Jakes’ offensive contributions, Madison Walkup added seven points, and Emily Pemberton and Jordan Hollis scored six each.
The Lionettes set a scorching tone early when they knocked down nine of their first 11 shots to take a 21-14 first-quarter lead.
That torrid pace did not continue against a strong Lady Tiger team that stiffened defensively and controlled the boards as it clawed to within 28-26 at halftime.
Sophomore post Ola Obi, who finished with 19 points, was a difference maker in the second quarter as she cominated inside and helped get Central back into the game.
“(Olbi) is a great player,” Dodgen said. “Central has three really strong players in Olbi, (Ashley) Brewer and (Cladia) Smith.”
The teams battled back and forth during the third quarter with Cannon County taking a 42-39 advantage into the fourth quarter.
“We knew it was going to be another one of those games that would go down to the final few minutes,” Dodgen said. “There are no nights off in District 8-AA. It is the toughest Class AA district in the state. This district is always good but this year it is the deepest of any year I have coached in 8-AA. We really had to work to get this win.”
Central poulled to within 50-48 on Olbi’s offensive rebound and putback with 3:01 remaining.
Sissom answered with a driving layup to stretch the lead to four, 52-48, with 2:41 remaining in regulation.
Olbi hit one of her two free throw attempts on the ensuing possession to trim the deficit to 52-49 with 2:18 remaining.
Cannon County sealed the game at the free-throw line. The Lionettes were 6-of-8 down the stretch with Sissom hitting three, Walkup two and Jakes one.
The Lionettes picked up their defense with the game on the line and didn’t allow Central to connect for a field goal in the final three minutes.
“We had to step up our defense down the stretch and we were able to do that,” Jakes said. “The big thing is that we got the rebounds off of their misses and they were forced to foul. We did a better job of getting rebounds down the stretch and then hitting the free throws.”