MCMINNVILLE – Cannon County was hoping to put together consistent back-to-back good efforts and show improvement from its season-opening loss against Cumberland County when it faced the Jets for the gold pool championship in the Sun Drop Romp Holiday Tournament in McMinnville Tuesday (Dec. 20).
The Lions (4-9) came up short in both regards as they suffered a 68-47 loss against Cumberland County. Cannon County will face Monterey in the silver bracket portion of the tournament at Boyd Christian Thursday at 4 p.m.
Cannon County showed offensive improvement from its season-opening meeting against Cumberland County, scoring 16 more points than they did in a 49-31 loss, but the Jets also were a much-improved team from the one the Lions faced six weeks earlier.
“Cumberland County is playing very well and they are improved from the first game,” Cannon County Head Coach Matt Rigsby said. “They start four seniors and are a veteran team and veteran teams should make improvements and become more solid. When you are a young team, like we are, you go through some struggles. My disappointment is that we didn’t play well and we were not able to put together back-to-back good efforts.”
Cumberland County’s full-court pressure created problems early.
The Lions were guilty of 14 first-half turnovers and 24 for the game, many of which led to easy fast-break opportunities for the Jets. When Cumberland County wasn’t converting easy scoring chances, its players were knocking down long-range shots with relative ease. The Jets were 4-of-6 from 3-point range in the first quarter and 6-of-13 in the first half as they rolled to a 44-18 halftime advantage.
“The way we reacted to their full-court pressure was very disappointing because it is the same press we run,” Rigsby said. “We didn’t attack it and we had too many unforced mistakes because of it. Not only do we have to be able to start putting consistent efforts together, but we also need to be able to correct mistakes.”
Cannon County’s offense was inconsistent because of its inability to break the press. The Lions were 6-of-29 from the field in the first half and made just 2-of-14 shots in the second quarter.
Jarrett Melton led the Lions with nine points and Brad Hutchins provided eight points and five rebounds in limited action. No other Lion scored more than five points.
“We knew we were going to have to handle their pressure,” Rigsby said. “Nothing they did came as a surprise. We just didn’t execute, and we had too many turnovers.”
When the Jets bolted to an early lead, which stretched to as much as 44-18 by the half, Cannon County had to abandon its usually good match-up zone for man-to-man defense. The Lions appeared to be outmatched by the more experienced Jets at that point as Cumberland County was able to get several open quality shots. The Jets, who were led by Taylor Houston’s 14 points and 11 each from Dylan Qualls and Brandon Hawkins, were 15-of-28 (54 percent) in the first half.
Cannon County’s defense offered little resistance in the second half. The Jets picked up where they left off, knocking down 6-of-10 shots, including two more treys, as they stretched the lead to 62-29. Granted, Cumberland County’s high percentage was helped by converting turnovers into layups, but the Jets also shot 47 percent (8-of-17) from 3-point range through the first three quarters.