The Cannon Courier
It was time to say goodbye to four senior basketball players on Feb. 9 who have meant a lot to the CCHS basketball program, while both teams looked to improve before this week's District 8AA tournament at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville.
For the Lionettes, the only senior was Samantha Gaither, while the Lion seniors include Josh Walkup, Anton Knox and Maika Fonoti. Even through all four players saw limited playing time this season, each of the them will be remembered for their contributions to the CCHS basketball program.
"She is invaluable," Lionettes head coach Jonathan Odom said. "Gaither would be the last one to tell you how good of a leader she is. She is a wonderful leader by her actions and work ethic, anything that is voluntary, she is always one of the first ones here. She is team first, and she has never worried about how many points or how minutes she gets. Wonderful example for our team, and Gaither has been through the ups and the downs during her four years. We are definitely going to miss her, and we want to take this season as far as we can for her."
Lions head coach Matt Rigsby has the same memories for the Lions three seniors this season, Walkup, Knox and Fonoti.
"Getting Walkup on the roster this year was key," Rigsby said. "We could not get him the big minutes we would have liked to. Basketball is something you cannot take a break from and come back. We were glad to have him back, and he has been a pleasant surprise for us. He is a great practice player, great energy and team guy. We wish we had some more time with him.
"In terms of Fonoti and Knox, it has not hit me yet, but losing those two is going to be tough on everyone. You cannot find two greater team guys in any locker room in the state of Tennessee in my opinion. I got three sons of my own, if all three of them develop to be to have half the character of Fonoti and Knox, I will be a proud father."
Both teams are coming off losses on Feb. 3 and Feb. 7 to Macon County and Murfreesboro Central Magnet, and they finished the 2016-17 regular season on Feb. 9 at home on senior night against Livingston Academy by being swept against the Wildcats.
The Lionettes fell 69-53, while the boys lost 75-55.
Heading into the postseason, the Lionettes will be the No. 5 seed, while the Lions will be the No. 8 seed for the district tournament.
The Lionettes open district play on Monday at 6 p.m. against Central Magnet while the Lions first game will be Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against the No. 5 seed.
However, when the postseason starts everybody is now 0-0, and both the Lions and Lionettes will use this as a fresh start after a disappointing regular season.
"We want to use that to our advantage, because they are going to underestimate us and our talent." Lions sophomore guard Brandon Miles said.
"We are going to start out fresh and act like it is a whole new season."
Gaither added, "I think so, we had a good lead gone for a minute against some of the teams we have played, and then the past two games have been upsets. I think if we start playing and get our heads straight, we can go somewhere, because my team is in creditably talented. I believe we can go somewhere."
The last four teams standing this week in Cookeville will survive and advance to the region tournament on Feb. 24 at TBA