MCMINNVILLE - According to the bracket for the Sun Drop Romp Holiday Tournament, Oakland and Cannon County were playing in one of the two girls' semifinals Thursday (Dec. 22).
The game had more of a championship flavor.
Oakland outlasted Cannon County, 54-53, in a showdown of two of the state's top teams in their respective classes. It was a back-and-forth duel that featured eight lead changes and two ties in the second half. Cannon County (12-3) rebounded and beat Warren County, 46-35, to take third place.
Abbey Sissom and Lindsey Reed earned All-Tournament honors for Cannon County.
"It's a tough loss but in the long run this game is really, really going to help us," Cannon County Head Coach Michael Dodgen said. "We will not face many people that physical. Oakland has a very good basketball team, they play hard and are well coached. It is a team that works hard and plays hard so that was a great challenge for us, and I thought our kids responded well for the most part."
Kaitlin Oliver's layup with six seconds remaining provided Oakland (10-1) with a 54-50 lead and essentially sealed the win. Until then, the game was up for grabs.
Sophomore Abbey Sissom showed up for the big game, scoring a game-high 27 points on the strength of a season-high six 3-pointers and also dished out three assists. Joanna Young also came up big with 11 points, five steals and six rebounds. Lindsey Reed added nine points, six steals and six rebounds.
"Abbey did a good job of not standing around and watching," Dodgen said. "She worked hard and moved to open spots. We have good ball handlers and penetrators that get people shots, and Abbey is one of those. She did a good job of penetrating and kicking it out. She got (Young) open for three 3-pointers and that was big."
The Lionettes connected for 10 3-pointers as a team and had one of their better shooting nights. In fact, Cannon County made 11 more field goals (25-to-14) than Oakland, but the Lionettes were outscored by 14 at the free-throw line. Oakland was 17-of-23 and Cannon County was just 3-of-4.
The game was nip-and-tuck throughout. Cannon County's biggest lead was seven. Oakland's was five.
Sissom's long 3-pointer tied the game, 43-43, with 4:05 remaining, but Oakland answered with a 5-0 run on the strength of three free throws to take a 48-43 advantage with 1:39 remaining.
Cannon County had closed to within 52-50 on Sissom's fifth 3-pointer with 22 seconds remaining. The Lady Patriots got the ball inbounds to Emily Eubank who was forced to pass it ahead to Oliver. The Lionettes attempted to foul Oliver, who appeared to stop her dribble during the collision near midcourt. No whistle blew and Oliver emerged from the pack and raced to the basket for a layup that put the Lady Pats on top 54-50 with six seconds remaining.
Sissom's sixth 3-pointer with one second remaining accounted for the final score.
"If our kids can bring that effort every night then we are going to beat a lot of people when it comes February and tournament time," Dodgen said.
Cannon County had a chance to distance itself from the Lady Patriots but failed to do so in what proved to be a pivotal second quarter. The Lionettes stormed out of the quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 22-15 lead. Young and Emily Pemberton keyed the run and the Lionettes' defense held Oakland without a field goal for almost six minutes. Randi Bivens' layup with 2:16 remaining was Oakland's first field goal of the second quarter.
After going up seven in the quarter; however, Cannon County didn't score again until Sissom's layup with 28 seconds remaining. The teams ended up tied, 24-24, at the half.
"That was a tough stretch because we really had a chance to put them away and didn't do it," Sissom said. "When you have a chance to put a good team away you have to do it. We didn't and they were able to get back in the game. It is a disappointing loss but there are several good things to take from it."
Sissom's 3-pointer with 2:49 remaining in the third quarter provided Cannon County a 34-30 lead but Oakland answered with a 5-0 run to go back in front 35-34. Sissom's 12-footer with 47 seconds remaining sent the Lionettes into the final quarter with a 36-35 advantage and set the stage for the highly-competitive finish.