By TONY STINNETT/ Courier Sports Editor
McMINNVILLE - Basketball coaches and sports writers throughout Tennessee regard Abbey Sissom as one of the Volunteer State’s best players.
Sissom provided another example why when she took her game to an even higher level against Cookeville in the championship of the Sun Drop Romp Christmas Tournament in McMinnville.
Sissom poured in a career-high 43 points to lead the Lionettes (13-1) to a riveting 71-64 triumph and the tournament title.
Sissom was named Most Outstanding Player after averaging 29.3 points in three tournament wins. She saved her best for last.
Sissom poured in seven 3-pointers in the title game, including a 25-footer at the buzzer, to force overtime. She was 14-of-18 from the free-throw line.
That she did it against a Cookeville team noted for defensive superlatives under veteran and former CCHS coach Mindy Odom, and being guarded against Hannah Goolsby, who has committed to Tennessee Tech, is even more impressive.
“I had no idea I had 43 points,” an almost overwhelmed Sissom said following the trophy presentation. “I was just playing and my teammates were doing a great job of getting me the ball in open spots. All of the concentration was just on playing had and coming back to win. This was a great win for our team.”
In addition to Sissom’s 43, Madison Walkup finished with 10 points and three rebounds, Rebekah Faulkner added six points and eight rebounds and Abbey Jakes added five points, five rebounds and three assists.
Jakes and Jordan Hollis joined Sissom on the All-Tournament team.
How the Lionettes won was as amazing as Sissom’s individual achievement.
Cannon County appeared to be done, trailing by 16, 53-37, with 2:39 remaining in regulation.
Sissom scored 13 of her 43 in the final 2:34 of regulation, including two clutch 3-pointers.
The Lionettes were down 10 with 50 seconds remaining but forced a series of stops and turnovers.
Cookeville was limited to two field goals over the final three minutes of regulation and overtime.
“We took a chance and went with five guards during that stretch and it created some problems for Cookeville,” Cannon County Head Coach Michael Dodgen said. “We were down but the girls just didn’t quit and that’s a sign of a good, experienced team.”
The defensive play of Sissom, Jakes, Jordan Hollis, Walkup and Macy Clements was instrumental in disrupting Cookeville’s offense and sparking the comeback.
The Lionettes trailed by six, 59-53, when Jakes was fouled on a 3-point attempt. She calmly sank all three pressure-packed free throws and then Cannon County forced a turnover with 9.9 seconds remaining in regulation.
Sissom’s 25-foot 3-pointer was perfect to force overtime and the Lionettes never looked back.
Riding a wave of momentum, Cannon County used a 12-1 run to take control and never was threatened during the overtime period.