McMINNVILLE – Cannon County’s magic number is 40.
When the Lionettes hold the opposition to 40 points or fewer they are almost unbeatable. Warren County realized how suffocating the Cannon County defense can be as the Lionettes clamped down for a 60-35 win in the final non-conference game of the regular season here Friday (Feb. 3).
Cannon County has held 17 opponents to 40 points or less this season and they are 16-1 in those contests. The only setback was a 32-27 setback against No. 1-ranked Upperman.
“Defensively, we are going to win a lot of games if we keep holding people under 40,” Lionettes Head Coach Michael Dodgen said. “We played as the better team tonight. I thought we played really well defensively in the second half. We read passes and we got in the passing lanes which, in turn, created easy opportunities for us.”
Sophomore Madison Walkup led three Lionettes in double figures with 13 on 5-of-7 shooting from the field. Walkup also added five rebounds. Abbey Sissom and Lindsey Reed scored 12 each to pace the Lionettes, which improved to 21-6.
Cannon County dominated the game in the second half.
The Lionettes outscored Warren County 34-13 in the second half and used stifling defense to make the point. Cannon County forced 12 second-half turnovers, including nine in the pivotal third quarter.
Clinging to a 26-22 halftime lead, Cannon County burst out of the locker room with renewed vigor and focus as it took over the game.
“We were giving up too many rebounds, especially offensive rebounds, and we were playing as hard as we needed to play,” Walkup said. “Coach Dodgen really challenged us at the half to come out and be the team that we are. We played much better in the second half.”
The Lionettes held Warren County to 1-of-9 from the field and nine turnovers in the third quarter. More importantly, Cannon County was 7-of-11 (64 percent) from the field during the eight-minute run that stretched a slim 26-22 lead to a commanding 46-25 advantage.
Not only did the Lionettes force nine turnovers in the third quarter but they converted them into 11 points. Walkup’s 3-pointer with 35 seconds remaining in the quarter pushed the lead to 43-25. It was the only long-range shot of the quarter because Cannon County spent the majority of the frame knocking down layups after collecting steals in the open court.
“When you are out in the open floor forcing turnovers you are going to give yourself easy scoring chances and we did that against Warren County,” Dodgen said. “I just didn’t think we were playing well in the first half. We were just kind of going through the motions and at this time of the year you have to be playing your best basketball. We came out with a different mentality in the second half and it showed. We need that for four quarters.”
The Lionettes had to overcome first-half foul trouble. Reed picked up two fouls in the first quarter, while Jordan Hollis and Joanna Young also was whistled for two infractions in the first half and had to take a seat.
In their absence, Walkup, Emily Pemberton and Rebekah Faulkner stepped up and helped maintain Cannon County’s lead.
Reed, who missed most of the first half, made her presence felt in the second half. She was 4-of-4 from the field with two steals. She scored 10 of her 12 in the third quarter.
The Lionettes cap the regular season at DeKalb County Tuesday (Feb. 7) and at home against Smith County on Senior Night Friday (Feb. 10). Friday is also “Pink Night” for the Lionettes. All fans are encouraged to wear pink in recognition of support of the American Cancer Society and cancer survivors.