MANCHESTER - Cannon County's offense came to life in the second half against Coffee County but the Lions had dug themselves too deep of a first-half deficit and fell 63-52 here Friday (Dec. 16).
The Lions' offense, throttled for most of the early season and the first half against the Red Raiders, generated 35 second-half points but could not complete a driven comeback bid.
"I'm proud of the effort in the second half and the way the kids just kept fighting and wouldn't give in," Cannon County Head Coach Matt Rigsby said. "We put forth great effort, created some turnovers and converted some clutch shots. We had a lot of positives to build off of from the second half of this game, but we put ourselves in too big of a hole with a bad second quarter."
Sophomore Cory Henley led Cannon County with 17 points and had four assists. Justin Tobin continued his recent upswing with nine points and six rebounds. Zach Higgins tallied six and Tanner Larson, Tommy Mitchell and Brad Hutchins finished with five each. Hutchins also was a dominant force on the boards, ripping down a game-high 11 rebounds, including relentless effort that provided the Lions a glimmer of hope in the final minute.
The Lions (3-8) outscored the Red Raiders 35-31 and made seven more field goals in the second half, but Coffee County visited the free-throw line 30 times in the second half. Cannon County got there 11 times the entire game. The Red Raiders outscored Cannon County, 25-11, at the charity stripe.
"Our defense created some problems in the second half and forced some turnovers that gave us a chance," Rigsby said. "The big difference in trying to fight back was we converted some of those turnovers into big shots on the offensive end."
The game turned for good in the second quarter when Coffee County got loose for 19 points and surged to a 32-17 halftime lead. The Lions were guilty of not covering up 3-point shooters quick enough and unforced turnovers led to some of the damage.
"We had a lull there at the end of the first quarter and then we made some mistakes in the second quarter that really hurt us defensively," Tobin said. "When you leave good shooters open they usually make you pay, and Coffee County hit some big shots during that stretch."
Cannon County, which had trailed by as many as 18 in the second half, pulled to within 55-45 on Henley's clutch 3-pointer with two minutes remaining. The Lions got to within nine with 1:12 remaining on some hard-nosed board work by Hutchins.
The driven Hutchins won a battle for an offensive rebound and was fouled on the shot attempt. He made the first of two free throws but missed the second. Hutchins fought for the rebound, winning the battle once again, and flipped the ball to Tobin, who converted a reverse layup to narrow the gap to 57-48 with 1:12 remaining.
Though Cannon County never got closer than nine, Rigsby believes the players see success is possible with consistent efforts.
"If we play four quarters like we did the second half then the outcome may have been different," Rigsby said. "We have yet to put it all together and we will continue to work toward that."
There were 43 total fouls called, including 28 against the Lions. Coffee County was 25-of-38 from the free-throw line. Cannon County was 11-of-14.