CHAPEL HILL - Cannon County ran into a road block when Forrest scored four points in the final 16 seconds to deal the Lionettes a gut-wrenching 54-53 setback in Chapel Hill Tuesday night.
Anna Curtner's 3-pointer from the corner beat the buzzer and proved to be the game-winner to complete a furious finish that left the Lionettes (6-1) stunned after they had battled from behind to take a 53-48 advantage with 25 seconds remaining. It marked the second straight season the Lionettes suffered a loss on a last-second shot at Forrest.
"It's a learning experience, but it's not the end of the world," Lionettes Head Coach Michael Dodgen said. "If we don't get better we will feel more of this and we should not because we are a good basketball team. We just have to take care of business."
Cannon County, already without projected starter Lauren Ruehlen (knee) for at least another month, played without starter Lindsey Reed against Forrest. Reed (back) is expected to miss two weeks. Despite the injuries, a poor shooting night and defensive breakdowns, the Lionettes still had opportunities to enjoy success.
Taylor King led Cannon Count with 15 points, followed by Chelsey Payne with 13, Emily Sissom with nine and Abbey Sissom netted seven.
The Lionettes, who trailed most of the third quarter and into the fourth, took a 51-48 lead on two King free throws with 40 seconds remaining. Cannon County was able to get a defensive stop and Forrest had to foul, sending Emily Sissom to the line. She calmly sank two free throws to extend the Lionettes advantage to 53-48 and it started to look like they were going to escape a hostile environment with a quality win.
That's when things turned.
Cannon County was called for a foul on Christina Curtner's layup with 16 seconds remaining. The free throw was good and the Lionettes were clinging to a 53-51 lead. Forrest quickly fouled King, who missed the front end of the one-and-one with 15 seconds remaining to set the stage for the dramatic ending.
The Lionettes were once again called for a foul on Forrest's next offensive position, sending Christina Curtner to the free-throw line with three seconds remaining. With drama continuing to unfold, she made the first pressure-packed free throw to cut the deficit to 54-53, but missed the second.
A mad scramble for the ball ensued under the basket with players from both teams fighting for possession. A jump ball was called and Forrest gained possession for one final attempt. Curtner received the inbound pass in the corner and launched the game-winner as time expired.
"We didn't attack and go get the basketball there," Dodgen said. "We let it bounce and you can't do that at the end of game because they are going to come flying in, you go flying in and it happens. We will learn from this and we will be better. It's part of it. This is a tough place to play and you have to take care of your business. We didn't tonight."
Another off-shooting night hampered the Lionettes, who missed seven layups in the third quarter alone and continued to struggle from beyond the 3-point line where they connected on just three treys. The free-throw line also proved to be a difference in the game. Cannon County shot 80 percent from the stripe but only got there 10 times and five of those were in the final 40 seconds when Forrest was forced to foul.
Forrest, on the other hand, made it to the free-throw line 21 times and made 15.
"I still feel like we should have won the game and I will feel that way until we see them again in February," Dodgen said. "You can't miss seven layups in the third quarter within five feet. That's 14 points you left on the floor right there."
The offensive woes were also felt on the defensive end. Cannon County wanted to apply its full-court pressure and dictate tempo but the inability to make shots prevented the Lionettes from consistently applying heat. Second-quarter defensive lapses when Lionettes lost shooters also hurt.
Cannon County jumped out to a 20-10 lead after the first quarter but it managed just two field goals in the first six-plus minutes of the second quarter and Forrest used a 12-2 run, including back-to-back 3-pointers, to rally and tie the game, 27-27, at the half.
The Lionettes had rallied to take a 41-40 lead on King's layup at the end of the third quarter and Emily Sissom's field goal provided a 43-42 lead with 5:35 remaining. The outlook improved when King and Emily Sissom supplied back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter. Sissom's long trey provided a 49-44 advantage with 3:38 remaining but it would be the Lionettes' last field goal made.
Cannon County will open District 8-AA play against DeKalb County at Robert A. Harris Gymnasium Saturday at 6 p.m.
Cannon County (53)
Taylor King 15, Chelsey Payne 13, Emily Sissom 9, Abbey Sissom 7, Ashley Basham 4, Abby Jakes 2.