Lions stun Upperman

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8-AA Boys Standings
1. Cannon Co. 19-3 6-0
2. Upperman 14-4 4-1
3. Liv. Acad. 9-6 4-1
4. York 9-5 3-2
5. DeKalb Co. 11-7 2-4
6. Smith Co. 3-15 1-3
7. Macon Co. 6-10 0-4
8. Central 1-13 0-5

By TONY STINNETT,  Courier Sports Editor

BAXTER - That Cannon County came on the road and defeated Upperman, 59-56, is not that big of a shocker.
After all, the Lions are ranked No. 10 in the state and have answered all District 8-AA challenges both on the road and at home during a strong season.

But the manner in which Cannon County won a much-anticipated showdown of District 8-AA’s top teams - on the road - demonstrated the team’s moxie.

The Lions (19-3, 6-0) overcame a 13-point, first-half deficit to come behind and stun the Bees (14-4, 4-1) on their homecourt in a showdown of the league’s top two teams.

“It was a great win for our team,” Lions Head Coach Matt Rigsby said. “This win showed our team’s character. Upperman is a good team and it is always tough to win here but to be down 13 in the first half against a well-coached team and fight back like we did, it was a huge win.”

The Lions were led by a balanced scoring attack that included a game-high 16 points from Cory Henley, 14 from Josh Ruehlen and 13 from Jacob Nave; however, A.J. Daniels’ nine points were also instrumental in the comeback. In fact, the junior reserve helped lead the domeback.

“There were so many different players who made a difference in this game,” said senior forward Tanner Larson, who controlled the boards inside. “It was a huge win for our team, but we still have a long way to go.”

The Lions became the only remaining undefeated team in District 8-AA with another huge league game against Livingston Academy looming at Cannon County Tuesday (Jan. 14).

The Lions trailed 19-6 after the first quarter but Daniel helped lead a strong second half that saw Cannon County close to within 33-28.

Daniel came up with another superlative play to tie the game, 42-42, going to the fourth quarter.

“We had several guys make big plays, but A.J. came up big to help bring us back,” Rigsby said. “That’s the nature of our team. It’s always someone different and that’s a good thing.”

Nave’s jumper with under two minutes remaining provided a 56-54 lead the Lions would not relinquish. Ruehlen extended the lead to 57-54 with a free throw with 24 seconds remaining.

Upperman had two chances to tie the game in the final seconds but misfired on two 3-point attempts.

The Lions will play host to Livingston Academy Tuesday (Jan. 14) before traveling to Macon County Friday (Jan. 17). Cannon County already has secured four District 8-AA road wins, including at York, DeKalb County and Upperman.

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