TONY STINNETT/ Courier Sports Editor
Cannon County senior Emily Pemberton, right, battles Murfreesboro Central’s Ashley Brewer, 21, for a rebound.
Two of the top-ranked teams in the state met with the district lead on the line when No. 3 Livingston Academy visited No. 6 Cannon County Friday (Jan. 25).
The Lionettes (21-3, 7-2) reclaimed the top spot in District 8-AA with a resounding 59-47 win against the Lady Wildcats (20-5, 6-2).
Cannon County moved one-half game in front of the defending champions and gained the head-to-head tiebreaker by vitue of completing the season sweep.
The Lionettes control their destiny to win the regular-season title and automatic berth into the Region 4-AA Tournament with three District 8-AA games remaining. Cannon County has league road games at Upperman and Smith County and a home game against DeKalb County.
“The girls really played well from start to finish,” Cannon County Head Coach Michael Dodgen said. “We shot the ball well but the defensive effort was really good. We did a better job against some of their key players in this meeting. There is still a lot of basketball to be played but it was important to get this home win and have the tiebreaker.”
District 8-AA Player of the Year candidate Abbey Sissom turned in a stellar performance in the pivotal league game and with a host of college coaches in attendance.
MTSU coach Rick Insell, David Lipscomb Head Coach John Wild and Samford’s Mike Morris were amongst those in attendance and Sissom delivered.
Sissom scored a game-high 25 points on a near-perfect night. She connected on all seven of her field goal attempts, including three 3-pointers, and was 8-of-9 from the free-throw line. Sissom also collected five rebounds, dished out four assists and had two steals.
“This was a big game for us,” Sissom said. “We really needed this win. It would have been tough to catch Livingston if they had won this game. We still have some tough games ahead of us but it was real important to get this win.”
Sissom was seemingly in a zone. She knocked down one big shot after another and helped distance the Lionettes in the second half.
“I was getting good looks and I really didn’t force any shots,” Sissom said. “We did a good job shooting the ball as a team.”
Abby Jakes continued her strong season with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting and collected a team-high three steals. Emily Pemberton had six points and four rebounds and sophomore post Arianna Kailiponi came up big with five points on 2-of-2 shooting and three rebounds.
“Our post players really played well,” Dodgen said. “It is not so much the points they get but the rebounding and defense. They were a presence in there. They combined for 13 points and 13 rebounds so that’s pretty good production.”
The Lionettes shot 60 percent (18-of-30) from the field, including 5-of-11 from the field. They held Livingston Academy to 39 percent shooting (12-of-31) from the field.
Cannon County led 17-16 after a riveting back-and-forth first quarter but the Lionettes stretched the lead to 31-25 by halftime.
The Lionettes outscored Livingston Academy 28-22 in the second half but really put distance between the teams when it allowed just nine third-quarter points and built a 48-34 lead going into the final quarter.
Livingston Academy never got closer than eight in the fourth quarter.
The Lionettes play host to Warren Co. Friday at 6 p.m.