Offensive woes continued to plaque Cannon County in a 57-46 loss to Jackson County in the Mitch Wilson State Farm Thanksgiving Classic at Robert A. Harris Gymnasium Saturday (Nov. 26).
The Lions (2-3) went 1-1 in the Classic but their inability to score the ball consistently prevented them from putting together back-to-back wins for the first time in the early season. Cannon County had scored less than 50 points in each of its three losses.
Jarrett Melton led the Lions with 11 points and Justin Tobin added eight points and seven rebounds. Either other Lions scored five or less.
Cannon County's offensive ineptitude should come as no surprise after the Lions graduated 98 percent of the team's offense from last season's Class AA Sub-state squad.
When the current Lions are able to get into their offense, they generally get good shots. Knocking them down; however, has been the problem. Cannon County shot just 36 percent (17-of-47) against Jackson County despite getting good looks.
"When our guards have protected the ball and been able to get us into our offense we have run the offense well and are getting good looks," Cannon County Head Coach Matt Rigsby said. "We have to be able to knock down those quality shots. It will come as these players continue to get comfortable on the court."
The Lions also prefer to generate offense from their full-court pressure but an inability to knock down shots has prevented them from pressing as much as they would like.
Even though the offense continues to be a work in progress, Cannon County's defense has been good enough to win, or at least keep the Lions in games. The Jackson County game was another example.
Cannon County held Jackson County to 32 points through three quarters and trailed by four, 32-28, entering the final stanza. Jackson County scored 25 in the fourth quarter but 13 of those were at the free-throw line when the Lions had to start fouling in the final two minutes to prevent the visitors from running the clock.
"We are improving in areas," Rigsby said. "We just have to keep making progress and eventually it will come together. I have to be patient and remember that most of these guys are playing in varsity games for the first time, so it is a process."
Cannon County fought back twice but was unable to sustain runs and build on momentum. Trailing 19-10 early in the second quarter, Cannon County put together an 8-0 run with one junior, three sophomores and a freshman on the court. Dalton Ryan's putback started the run with 5:27 remaining. Tommy Mitchell and Zach Higgins followed with consecutive 3-pointers to pull Cannon County to within 19-18 but the Lions didn't hit another field goal in the remaining 4:10 and trailed 27-19 at the half.
The Lions closed to within six, 38-32, going into the fourth quarter when freshman Josh Ruehlen beat the buzzer on an impressive, off-balanced, catch-and-shoot, out-of-bounds play to end the third frame.
Jackson County started the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run for its largest lead, 46-32, with 5:20 remaining and Cannon County was never able to get closer than seven down the stretch.
"The kids fought hard and battled," Rigsby said. "We had some lapses that hurt us at times and we lost the shooter and that hurt us at key times, but we competed."
Cannon County will face Tullahoma in non-district action at Robert A. Harris Gymnasium Tuesday.