Lionettes look to make point
after being picked fifth
By TONY STINNETT, Courier Sports Editor
They already were good.
Now they are playing with a chip on their shoulder and with something to prove.
When District 8-AA girls basketball coaches pegged Cannon County fifth in a preseason poll conducted by the Cookeville Herald-Citizen, it seemed to catch the ire of the Lionettes.
Cannon County opened District 8-AA play with a showdown against league newcomer Macon County, which lost in the Class AA state finals in two of the last three years.
The Lionettes improved to 8-0 overall and 1-0 in 8-AA with a resounding 65-29 win, led by Abbey Sissom’s 24-point performance that included six 3-pointers.
“I think that fifth place ranking lit a fire under us and showed us that we have something to prove,” said Sissom, a two-time Miss Basketball Finalist and MTSU signee who was 6-of-10 from 3-point range. “We came out ready to play and I am proud of our whole team because we played so well.”
Sissom was the only Lionette in double figures; however, it was a total team effort that carried Cannon County.
Madison Walkup continued her solid play with nine points, five rebounds and a game-high five steals.
Macy Clements was a beast on the boards with 12 caroms. She also scored six, dished out three assists and had three deflections.
Kendra Maynard tallied six, Erin McReynolds finished with four points, four assists and four deflections, and Rebekah Faulkner controlled the paint with seven rebounds to go with her four points.
Even Lionettes veteran mentor Michael Dodgen is coaching with a chip on his shoulder.
“As a coach I have a chip on my shoulder that we were picked fifth in this district,” Dodgen said. “As players, they have a chip. These girls have put in the work and earned the respect of being picked higher than fifth. I know it’s just a poll and there is a bunch of people voting and it is their opinion, but we are going to play hard every night and everybody knows that.”
Coaches picked Livingston Academy to win the league, followed by Smith County, Murfreesboro Central, Macon County, Cannon County, Upperman, York and DeKalb County.
Over the last three years Cannon County’s current seniors have played in two state tournaments, two Substates and three regionals.
They sent a reminder at Macon County’s expense.
The Lionettes allowed just eight total field goals and used smothering defense to suffocate the Tigerettes.
Cannon County, on the other hand, connected for 25 field goals and shot 9-of-19 from 3-point range.
Macon County trailed 23-17 late in the second quarter when Kristen Hale came off of the bench and drained a 3-pointer. Sissom followed it with another and the Lionettes carried a 29-17 lead into the half.
“Kristen hit that big 3 in the corner and that sparked us a little,” Dodgen said. “We always talk about people stepping up and filling roles and hitting big shots and we did that tonight. Macon County is a young team and they were on the road in a hostile environment. They missed some easy shots but I think our defense had a lot to do with that.”
Macon County scored nine of its 29 from the free-throw line.
The Lionettes continued to perform well from the stripe, knocking down 8-of-10 attempts.
Any hope Macon County had of a rally ended when Sissom knocked down three straight 3-pointers from the right wing at the start of the third quarter. The Lionettes had built a commanding 50-27 cushion going into the fourth.
“A lot of people expected a close game, and I expected that,” Sissom said. “I am a little shocked at the score, but we worked hard on defense and played really well.”
Walkup, Clements and McReynolds keyed the early defensive surge with pressure that forced numerous turnovers and deflections that hampered offensive rhythm.
The Lionettes play host to Smith County Tuesday before traveling to rival DeKalb County Friday. Tipoff for both games is 6 p.m.