By TONY STINNETT, Courier Sports Editor
Both Cannon County basketball teams survived first-round Region 4-AA elimination games to vault into the Round of 32 in the TSSAA postseason.
The No. 2-ranked Lionettes (31-3) ran roughshod over Signal Mountain, 65-41, in the Region 4-AA quarterfinals; while the No. 10-ranked Lions (27-7) went on the road to turn back Signal Mountain, 61-50, in the boys quarterfinals. It marked career win No. 100 for Lions Head Coach Matt Rigsby.
Both teams faced elimination games in the region semis. The Lionettes were playing Smith County Monday and the boys had a rematch with Upperman Tuesday in the Region 4-AA semifinals at White County High School.
A.J. Daniel scored all 11 of his points in the fourth quarter to help the Lions surge past Signal Mountain, which lost in the District 7-AA championship game to Bledsoe County. Cory Henley led the Lions with 16 points. Jacob Nave also scored 11 points for the Lions. Marshall McReynolds and Tanner Larson scored six each, followed by Garrett McReynolds (5), Josh Ruehlen (4) and Tommy Mitchell (2).
The Lions led 36-33 after three quarters but put the game out of reach with a 16-4 run to start the fourth quarter. Daniel paced the charge with 11 points on the strength of 3-of-3 shooting from 3-point range in the final quarter.
“It took me long enough to get going,” Daniel said. “I was just glad we came through and the team got the win. Now we turn our attention to Upperman. It will be a big game for our team.”
The Lions were looking to get back to the Region 4-AA championship game for the second time in four years.
The Lionettes are seeking back-to-back TSSAA Class AA State Tournament appearances and are looking for their third state tournament berth in four years.
Cannon County has won two-of-three from Smith County, including the last two. Senior standout Abbey Sissom, a MTSU signee, scored a career high 46 points in the last meeting between the two teams.
Sissom scored a game-high 18 points in the Lionettes’ win against Signal Mountain. Senior classmate Madison Walkup netted 13 and scored 11 in the first half to help Cannon County surge to the early lead.
The Lionettes had an 11-0 run in the first quarter and never looked back as they cruised to the opening-round victory.
“It’s always tough when you are playing an opponent you don’t know a lot about for the first time, especially in an elimination game,” Sissom said. “At the same time it was kind of nice to play a team not from our district. Coach (Michael) Dodgen does a good job of getting us prepared for each opponent. We felt good about the scouting report if we executed.”
Cannon County did.
They controlled the game from the opening tip and never allowed the Lady Eagles to become a serious factor.
Rebekah Faulkner scored 10, followed by Auturm King and Kendra Maynard with seven each. Erin McReynolds (6) and Kelli Davis (4) also tallied for the Lionettes.