By TONY STINNETT/Courier Sports Editor
Once Cannon County put its 56th point on the scoreboard it had to feel good about the chances of securing a pivotal District 8-AA victory against visiting Smith County at Robert A. Harris Gymnasium (Jan. 11).
The Lions (9-11, 4-4) secured a 60-48 triumph and improved to 8-1 when scoring 56 or more points. The only loss was against Upperman.
“We play pretty solid defense and handle ourselves on the boards pretty well,” Cannon County Head Coach Matt Rigsby said. “It’s not like we have to shoot lights out or put up a big number to win but we have been struggling offensively during this (losing) streak. It doesn’t matter howgood you are defensively. It is hard to beat anyone scoring in the 40s.”
Junior Cory Henley led the offensive uprising with 17 points on the strength of three 3-pointers. Tanner Larson had a stellar all-around game with 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Sophomore Garrett McReynolds continued his solid play with eight points, four rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
Jarrett Melton finished with six points and eight assists and Tommy Mitchell totaled six points, six rebounds and two assists.
“We had several players contribute in many different ways and that’s what it takes to get wins, especially district wins,” Rigsby said. “We still have deficiencies to fix but the biggest thing is we have to become consistent. We have to learn to play this way night-in, night-out.”
It wasn’t like the Lions shot lights out against the Owls. They shot less than 50 percent from the field and were just 3-of-14 from 3-point range with Henley knocking down all three treys.
But the Lions were 13-of-15 from the free-throw line and came through with clutch charity tosses in the fourth quarter when Smith County was trying to mount a comeback.
They also rekindled intensity.
“It’s not like we had to shoot it well to win the game. We want to shoot better but this was not a good shooting night and we won,” Rigsby said. “We had to get the intensity back. It was a different intensity level than we have had in weeks. I’m proud of the guys and the way they played from start to finish.”
Cannon County jumped ahead 14-9 with an impressive first quarter in front of an appreciative standing-room-only crowd. The Lions extended the advantage to 30-19 by halftime and maintained the lead throughout the second half.
Smith County was led by Kevin Craighead’s 20 points. Jordan Craighead added 16.
It was a key win for the Lions in the District 8-AA standings. Cannon County improved to 3-3 and moved into fourth in the league race. It has a two-game lead and the tiebreaker on each of the three teams below it.
Cannon County pulled to within one game of third-place Upperman (4-2). DeKalb County (6-0) and Livingston Academy (5-1) have established themselves as the chief contenders.