Tough loss

Tough loss

Cannon County Lionettes Head Coach Michael Dodgen provides instruction as the team bench celebrates a field goal during the fourth quarter of the TSSAA Class AA Girls State Tournament in Murfreesboro.

By TONY STINNETT/ Courier Sports Editor

-  Cannon County couldn't have picked a worse time to have one of its worst shooting night of the season.
The No. 6-ranked Lionettes (28-7) suffered a 39-35 setback against Christian Academy of Knoxville in the quarterfinals of the TSSAA Class AA State Championship at MTSU's Murphy Center Thursday (March 8) after turning their lowest shooting percentage of the season.

Cannon County shot just 9 percent (3-of-32) in the first half and 22 percent (14-of-64) for the game in the narrow setback.

"Our kids never quit," said Cannon County eighth-year Head Coach Michael Dodgen, who has taken the Lionettes to two state tournament appearances in the past three seasons. "We just couldn't hit shots. It's that simple. It wasn't the atmosphere. It wasn't the arena. It wasn't the opponent. We just didn't hit shots. They were open shots. We got open looks and we just couldn't hit them. That happens sometimes. We got down but we never quit."

The Lionettes were led by Madison Walkup's 12 points, three steals and three assists,  and two-time Miss Basketball finalist Abbey Sissom added 11 points and six rebounds. The remainder of Cannon County's participants scored a total of 11 points combined. Jordan Hollis finished with four assists, three points and two steals. Rebekah Faulkner finished with four points and seven rebounds. Ashley Basham pulled seven rebounds.

Senior Abby Jakes suffered an injury to her right knee early in the second quarter and didn't return. Jakes, Cannon County's second-leading scorer, finished with three points.

"Losing your second-leading scorer in the first half certainly hurts," Dodgen said. "You had it for Abby because she worked so hard to get back. She wasn't able to play in the (state) tournament two years ago because of an injury. She was a big part of us getting back this year and then she wasn't able to play the role she would have wanted."

The Lionettes trailed 24-8 at halftime before putting together a strong rally that saw them pull to within four on two occasions in the fourth quarter. After connecting for just three first-half field goals Cannon County bucketed 11 in the second half, including five from 3-point range.

"I feel like if we had another 45 seconds we would have won the game," Sissom said. "We were coming back and I really believe we just ran out of time. We were too far behind to finish the comeback."

The Lionettes were just 1-of-4 from the free-throw line. CAK (25-7) scored 13 of its points from the free-throw line. CAK was held to 15 second-half points but the damage was done. 

"I told the girls they had two options at the half," Dodgen said. "They could quit or fight back. They fought back. I am so proud of this team. They worked hard and had a great season. They won the toughest Class AA district in the state in the regular season. They went on the road in the Substate and got a win at the toughest place in the state to get a win and they almost finished off what would have been a great story and comeback. It hurts right now but these girls have accomplished a lot."