Lions’ outstanding season climaxes in region semifinals
By TONY STINNETT, Courier Sports Editor
SPARTA - Matt Rigsby got the type of game he wanted against Upperman in the semifinals of the Region 4-AA Tournament.
The Lions (27-8) just didn’t hit enough shots to continue their season.
Cannon County, co champions of District 8-AA during the regular season, suffered a 54-44 setback against Upperman in the semis.
“We have shooters, don’t get me wrong,” Rigsby said. “We just don’t have the firepower they do. There is something to be said about having eight seniors and Upperman has some good ones. We took our chances with a defensive game and we gave ourselves a chance. I’m very proud of our defensive effort.”
The defense was easily good enough as evidenced by limiting the Bees to 54 points - 12 of which came at the free-throw line.
Cannon County’s offense, on the other hand, was not up to par.
The Lions shot just 17-of-37, including 1-of-12 from 3-point range.
Upperman wasn’t much better.
In fact, the Bees had the same number of field goal attempts as Cannon County and made just one more than the Lions.
The difference was Upperman 18-of-37 shooting included 6-of-12 from the 3-point arc.
“That’s pretty much the difference,” Rigsby said. “We shoot 1-of-12 from 3 and they are 6-of-12. It was not for lack of effort or execution. We just couldn’t get our shots to fall.”
Cory Henley, who landed a spot on the Region 4-AA All-Tournament team, led the Lions with 12 points and concluded his outstanding career with 1,305 points - which is fourth on the all-time scoring list.
“Cory had a great career. Those guys are special,” Rigsby said. “At times the kid could just take a game over. Cory had great will and desire. That doesn’t come from coaching that comes from Cory.”
The loss also signaled the end of the prep careers of seniors Tanner Larson, Tommy Mitchell and Dalton Ryan.
“My hat is off to those seniors,” Rigsby said. “They have put in a lot of work for our program to have success. Our fans and coaches have got to watch them play and grow up the last few years. We are better for having those four young men in our program.”
Upperman jumped ahead early and took control of the game. It led 32-23 at the half but the Lions would not go away without a fight.
Cannon County pulled to within five with possession of the basketball three times in the fourth quarter but could never get over the hump.
“We really put up a good fight and gave the effort, we just couldn’t hit enough shots,” Henley said. “That is frustrating because we have been a good shooting team. They just didn’t fall tonight. We have had a great season. I’m glad to have been part of it and helping us get back to this point. I believe the future is bright at Cannon County.
Upperman, which beat Livingston Academy to win the region, was led by Tyler McWilliams’ 15 points.