By JUSTIN BEASLEY, Courier Sports Writer
MANCHESTER - The Cannon County girl's basketball team will compete in the 2014 Marlin Christmas Classic in Panama City Beach, Fla. from Dec. 29-31.
The three-day event features a total of eight teams, four from Tennessee, three from Florida, and one from South Carolina.
And although the Cannon County's girls (11-3, 2-2) are no strangers to traveling over Christmas break, the goal is to play games in consecutive days in order to prepare for district and regional tournaments.
"You're trying to get your kids legs and body adjusted to it," head coach Michael Dodgen said. "Our kids are accustomed to traveling over Christmas. We have been very fortunate with our booster club and our parents that help raise the money for these kids to be able to take these trips."
Dodgen's team returned to the practice floor for the first time Friday since the Rhea County Classic ended Dec. 20. The team played three games in three days during the tournament, a scenario that will happen this week as well.
The Lionettes first game will be Monday at 11:45 a.m. when they take on Marshall County, Ky., at Arnold High School. All 12 games will be held at Arnold High School including the championship on Wednesday night.
If Cannon County wins its opening game, they will play the winner of Wren, S.C., and Columbia, Tenn., on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
"You just want to keep getting better. This is your last go around, last dress rehearsal before your district season starts," Dodgen said. "They've had a good time, but they know come Monday at 11:45 a.m. it's all business."
Moore County, Uni-versity School, LaVergne and Cannon County represent teams from Tennessee. Arnold, Mosley and Archbishop are the three Florida teams in the classic with Wren being the lone-team from South Carolina.
Every game will be streamed live online for free at www.psblive.com.
Side story: Cannon County's Briar Jakes and Kristen Hale won their respective 3-point shooting contest as part of the Marlin Christmas Classis skills competition on Saturday night.
Jakes, notched 18 points in the second round out of a possible 30 points. He won with nine points collected in 30 seconds after tying on four different occasions in the final round.
Hale, tallied 14 points in the first round of action. She won outright with 10 points in her final round of competition.
Kelli Davis "growing up" and the numbers show it
Davis shines, & shows promise for Lionettes
MANCHESTER - Life after the graduation of former Cannon County star Abbey Sissom was suppose to open doors for other district 8-AA teams to compete.
While that might be true, it might not be as easy as once thought with the emergence of Cannon County's Kelli Davis.
Over the past seven games, Davis has averaged 18.5 points per game, scoring in double-digits every contest.
"She can shoot the three, she can go off the bounce, so she is just a hard player to guard because of how tall she is and slender she is," head coach Michael Dodgen said. "She just makes it a hard matchup for everybody."
Her game-high over the previous seven contests came against Red Bank after she posted 24 points in Cannon County's final game of the Rhea County Classic.
And although Davis has been a nightmare for most of her opponents already, Dodgen sees more development coming from the 5'9 junior guard in the near future.
"She's got a lot of potential that's not been discovered on her part. She's still learning. She is still doing what she needs to do to make herself better everyday. She has a lot of upside to her," Dodgen said.
Another element to Davis' success has been the help of her teammates and the amount of attention they draw with or without the basketball.
"You cannot shade off of one person. We've not had the same leading scorer all year, we've had different leading scorers every game... every game somebody is stepping up and doing their job," Dodgen said.
"That's what you got to have to have a successful team and a successful program."