CARTHAGE – Cannon County made the turn playing like the contender it expects to be during the second half of the District 8-AA girls basketball race.
The Lionettes (18-4, 3-3), ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press Class AA Top 10, completed the first half of league play with a convincing 51-37 win against Smith County here Friday (Jan. 13), setting the stage for what expects to be a tightly-contested battle to the finish in District 8-AA.
“We talked about this being the point in the district where you have to separate yourself,” Cannon County Head Coach Michael Dodgen said. “You have to bring your ‘A’ game, bring your intensity and a lot of effort.”
Cannon County brought all three elements and a lot more as it dismantled the Lady Owls (10-9, 2-4) with a suffocating first-half defense and balanced scoring.
Sophomore star Abbey Sissom led all scorers with a game-high 19 points and dished out six assists. Lindsey Reed finished with 10 points, six rebounds, five steals and five assists; Joanna Young added nine points and Jordan Hollis finished with seven.
The top four teams in the 8-AA race are separated by 2-1/2 games at the halfway mark.
“We believe we are one of the top teams in our district, but we let a couple games slip away from us the first time around,” Sissom said. “We know it’s going to be a fight to the finish. This was a good way to finish the first half, but we also know this type of effort is required in all the remaining games. We can’t worry about the standings. It’s more about us getting better each game and taking care of business one game at a time.”
Sissom connected on eight of her 15 attempts and was a solid 7-of-11 from within the 3-point arc. Her ability to penetrate and get to the rim caused problems for the Lady Owls but it was a consistent theme for the Lionettes throughout the game.
“Abbey does it professionally,” Dodgen said of her scoring ability. “She is not flamboyant. She just goes out there and finds ways to put the ball in the hole. Yes, she’s a great shooter, but that’s what you do when people are trying to body you up. We spread them out and penetrated very well. Lindsey did a great job getting to the rack. So did Jordan. It causes defensive matchups for people.”
Cannon County’s defense caused a lot of problems for Smith County, which was led by Callie Hackett’s 11 and Chelsea Bell’s nine. The Lady Owls connected for just seven total field goals and were a dismal 2-of-19 in the first half.
The Lionettes held Smith County scoreless on 0-of-12 shooting in the second quarter to open a 28-7 halftime lead. More impressive, they did it with Reed, a defensive stalwart, on the bench with two fouls most of the second quarter. Sophomores Macy Clements and Madison Walkup stepped up in Reed’s absence.
“We didn’t do everything right but we came out with a lot of intensity and that helped us get the lead,” Dodgen said. “We are capable of playing really good defense without fouling and that’s what we need to do. Defense will win you a lot of games. If people can’t score you are doing a good job defensively.”
Cannon County returns to action when it faces York in a pivotal 8-AA showdown at Robert A. Harris Gymnasium Friday at 6 p.m.