By TONY STINNETT/ Courier Sports Editor
COOKEVILLE - Cannon County earned a spot in the District 8-AA championship game for the third time in four years with a 53-42 win against York in semifinal action at Cookeville High School Saturday.
The win assures the No. 6-ranked Lionettes (25-4) will play at home in the first round of the Region 4-AA Tournament Friday at 7 p.m. They will face either Grundy County or Chattanooga Christian.
Abbey Sissom led Cannon County with 23 points on the strength of five 3-pointers. It marked the 19th time Sissom has scored 20 or more this season. She also dished out five assists, collected five steals, pulled four rebounds and blocked two shots.
"This was a big game because it puts us in the championship and gets us another home game in the region," Sissom said. "That is important because our fans are the best. It's always better to play at home. We had a good week of practice and felt good about the game but we knew it would be tough because York has a lot of talent."
York dealt Cannon County one of its four losses during the regular season so the Lionettes knew they would have a battle on their hands - and they did.
Ashley Wright finished with 24 points and kept York in the game, particularly in the first half. Cannon County led 24-20 at intermission.
"York is a good basketball and with seven seniors their experience is starting to show," Cannon County Head Coach Michael Dodgen said. "Ashley Wright is a four-year starter and she is a strong kid that plays hard."
Cannon County pulled away in the third quarter with a 15-7 blitz that opened a 39-27 advantage. Jordan Hollis, Abby Jakes, Rebekah Faulkner and Sissom had backbreaking baskets during the run. Madison Walkup kept the run going with a steal and layup to start the fourth quarter and Sissom's back-to-back 3-pointers sealed the deal.
Hollis finished with nine points. Jakes added seven and Faulkner tallied six.
Cannon County's post players didn't have an offensive breakout but their defense was paramount, particularly on the boards. Ashley Basham, Emily Pemberton, Rebekah Faulkner and Arianna Kailiponi were able to control the boards against a York team that dominated the offensive glass in dealing Cannon County an overtime loss in the last meeting.
"The effort on defense was outstanding and we controlled the boards," Dodgen said. "We had too against a team like that. It was one of our goals and we did a good job in that area, which was key."
York was just 14-of-49 from the field, including 3-of-14 from 3-point range. It was a stark contrast from a night earlier when the Dragonettes scored the nets from long range in eliminating Smith County.
"We knew who their shooters were and we did a good job getting out and covering them up," Hollis said. "Coach said we had to lock