HARTSVILLE - Finishing games is becoming a hurdle for the Cannon County boys.
The Lions shook off a slow start and had built as much as an eight-point lead late in the third quarter before falling to Lancaster Christian Academy, 57-50, in the consolation game of the Trousdale County Holiday Tournament Friday (Dec. 31).
Good news is, the Lions (6-12) are getting to the finish line.
"We are getting better," said sophomore Cory Henley, who led the Lions with 11 points and earned All-Tournament honors. "The end result is what matters and we have to get over the hump and find ways to win these games, but we are putting ourselves in position and that's progress we can see."
Lancaster Christian Academy (11-3), based out of Smyrna, Tenn., is one of the nation's premier teams in its classification. It plays in the Greater Nashville Athletic Christian Conference and is the defending national champion.
Cannon County put itself in position for what would have been a quality win with an effective defensive zone and continued good inside-out shooting. In addition to Henley's consistent scoring, junior post Ethan Bryson continued a productive tournament with six points. He missed one shot in the last two games. Zach Higgins scored seven points off of the bench. Jarrett Melton, Brad Hutchins and Alex Davenport each scored six, and Tommy Mitchell added five.
"We played pretty solid but we had the slow start and then Lancaster Christian made some plays there at the end," Cannon County Head Coach Matt Rigsby said. "They have a good team and they have been in some pressure situations. Their players responded with the game on the line."
The free-throw line continued to present problems for the Lions, who were 8-of-15 from the charity stripe. Three of the misses were the front ends of one-and-one situations. Lancaster Christian, on the other hand, was 13-of-17 from the free-throw line.
"That is three losses of late that you can look at the free-throw line and see where a difference could have been made - Jackson County, Pickett County and Lancaster Christian," Rigsby said. "Our guys have to be willing to put in extra time on that because we have not been converting. We work on free throws but sometimes you have to be willing to put in extra work."
Cannon County had used an 8-0 run to take a 42-34 advantage in the third quarter. The game was tied 34-34 when Mitchell hit a 3-pointer to put the Lions on top 37-34 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter. Dalton Ryan added a free throw, Melton converted a driving layup and Mitchell capped the run with a short jumper to establish a 42-34 advantage with 1:05 remaining.
Lancaster Christian closed the quarter on a 4-0 run to get back to within 42-38 and the momentum carried into the fourth period. Lancaster Christian hit five of its first eight attempts in the fourth quarter while holding Cannon County scoreless during the same stretch. The result was a 12-0 run going back to the third quarter and established a 48-42 lead with less than four minutes remaining.
Cannon County pulled to within 52-50 on Davenport's offensive rebound and putback with 1:23 remaining, but Lancaster Christian was 5-of-6 from the line and the Lions didn't score down the stretch.