Lions' 'Wild Ride' Ends One Win Shy Of State Tourney

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CHATTANOOGA - Cannon County's "wild ride" came to a halt in the Choo Choo city, where the Lions suffered a 65-47 loss to Howard in the TSSAA Class AA Sectional at Henry Bowles Gymnasium Monday night.

Justin Davenport scored a game-high 23 points but it wasn't enough as the Lions (22-14) fell one win short of the school's first state tournament appearance since 1985.

"These kids have taken our community on a wild ride and I am so proud of them for it," said Cannon County third-year Head Coach Matt Rigsby. "I just told them how absolutely proud of them I am. They are hurting now but when they look back at the bigger picture they will understand the extent of what a great season this was in our school's boys basketball history."

Cannon County's seniors certainly are leaving the program in better shape than when they entered. Four years ago the Lions had completed a six-win season. Cannon County's win total increased each year that followed, capped by the first 20-win season in 11 years with 22 in 2010-11.

"We are all sad right now and nobody likes to lose, especially when it ends your season," said Davenport, who completes his career as Cannon County's all-time leading scorer. "We left the program in pretty good shape, I think. I believe we changed it for the better. We had our first 20-win season in 11 years and we came to the Sub-state. We came up one game short but we still had a pretty good season overall."

The Lions reached the Substate for just the third time since 1985, first in 11 years, and only the fifth time in school history. Eight seniors playing their final game included Davenport, Brian Cripps, Colin Jones, T.J. Mitchell, Jared Nave, Cody Ruehlen, Heath Simons and Gabriel Walkup. Manager Jeran Tenpenny also is a member of the senior class.

In a game that featured many peaks and valleys Cannon County appeared to be on the verge of extending its season after a vigorous rally pulled the Lions to within three with 5:28 remaining.

The Lions trailed 30-20 at the half and were down as many as 17, 39-22, midway through the third quarter but they used a 11-1 run to close the half and pull to within 40-30. Nave, who scored nine points and pulled seven rebounds, started the run and then Davenport took over.

The senior point guard scored six of the next eight points and the Lions had momentum on their side.

"We started hitting some shots right there and that allowed us to get into our defense, which started creating some problems for them," Davenport said. "We were able to get some easy baskets off those turnovers and then some 3s started falling."

The momentum carried into the fourth quarter. Davenport buried a 17-footer to start the frame and pull the Lions to witin 40-35, and Nave followed a Howard turnover with a turn-around jumper in the lane to make it a one-possession game, 40-37, with 5:28 remaining.

But Cannon County went without a field goal over the next three minutes and Howard used a 14-2 run to pull away. Howard (23-6) won for the 14th time in its last 15 outings.

" We lost to an absolutely great basketball team," Rigsby said. "They hit the two quick shots right after we had closed it to three and they have not been a good free-throw shooting team, according to their coach, but when we started putting them on the line they hit every one of them. You have to give them credit for hitting those shots with the game on the line."

Cannon County's initial defense was sound enough against Howard but the Tigers' definite size advantage was a factor. They scored 16 points on second-chance opportunities.

Mitchell scored seven points for the Lions, Cripps added five and Jones three.

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Members Opinions:
March 08, 2011 at 6:42am
THis community is definitely proud of you. You had one of the best seasons In school history and that is something you can always take with you.
March 08, 2011 at 7:50am
Thanks for the great memories that you have left us all with. We are very proud of each one of you and the hard work you did to take this team to the sub-state. It has truly been a "Season to Remember".
March 08, 2011 at 9:00am

Congratulations on an outstanding season and a special thank you to all of the Senior Lions who showed what class should look like every time they stepped on the court!

Thanks also to Matt and his staff who did a fine job coaching and I know I look forward to many more years of his leadership guiding our teams to victory!

Thanks for a GREAT YEAR!
March 08, 2011 at 9:26am
Hold your heads high Lions and take great pride in what you have done. What a great season. It has been fun and what pride we can all take to see you grow as a team and as very fine young men. Go forth in life with the same effort and mindset as you have with this ball team and I am sure you will all do great things in the future.
March 08, 2011 at 1:09pm
Congrats to Coach Rigsby and his coaching staff on a great season. Also congrats to the boys basketball players on a great season.
March 08, 2011 at 1:59pm
Great job Lions! Did it bother anyone else that they did not have the National Anthem?
March 08, 2011 at 3:02pm
It was definitely a unique environment at the game last night. Why would a high school not start their game with the National Anthem? I was so proud of the way the Lions competed against such a size disadvantage. I honestly thought we had showed up at a college game. The coaching staff and players have added so much joy to a great basketball season. Thank you so much and we are all proud of your accomplishments.
March 08, 2011 at 10:24pm
Hey Josh, Do you believe other people may think its a little odd how you come out after a negative moment and pound your chest about how this team and Coaching Staff were inept. Where have you been since? 20 plus wins? Region runner ups? Player of the year? Defensive MVP of the year? Coach of the year? Sub-state run?

Again, I can't hear you. Josh? Josh? ohhhh Josh????????????

Your a pathetic individual! Please stay away from all other CCHS basketball games in the future. By the way, more importantly, Go Lionettes!!!!! Get it done Thursday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
March 09, 2011 at 9:38am
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