Friends focus on final game but have fun along the way

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Cann registers double-double, McKee leads Morehead as Anderson’s terrific tandem makes final appearance together

By John Herndon

LEXINGTON -- When the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team hosted Morehead State last Wednesday, the outcome was never in doubt. As expected, the 22nd-ranked Wildcats rolled to an 86-53 win to remain unbeaten through five games.


Morehead fell to 2-3 but should recover to be a factor in the Ohio Valley Conference race.

The well-known subplot involved Anderson County natives Makenzie Cann and Eriel McKee. The pair started playing basketball together at Anderson County Middle School then led the Anderson County Lady Bearcats to three regional championships and a state Final Four appearances before going their separate ways.

McKee has become one of the most complete players in Morehead State women’s basketball history while Cann has worked her way into the Kentucky starting lineup and is a key figure in the Wildcats’ success.

They’ve remained extremely close despite attending different schools. Unless they run into each other in the NCAA Tournament, last Wednesday was the final time they will ever be on the floor together.

Wednesday, Cann finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, her second consecutive double-double. She also had five assists in 29 minutes of action.

McKee led Morehead with 13 points and was the Eagles’ second leading rebounder with six.

And in what became a bit of a humorous subplot, Cann and McKee started the game guarding each other.

“She actually texted me last (Tuesday) night and she sent me a picture asking if I remember our handshake from middle school like that was so long ago,” McKee said in the post-game press conference. “She told me she was going to be guarding me and I told her that I was going to be guarding her and she said she was excited to see me and stuff.”

Cann noted that she wasn’t trash talking but tried to get McKee to smile on the court.She admitted saying, “Come on E! Come on E!”

For her part, McKee grinned, “I just acted like I didn’t know her. I said after the game we can be cool but not right now.”

Those attending the press conference laughed.

Both players fielded questions about the other.

McKee said her longtime friend has become a much better player. “I would say she has. I mean she has become a lot better, especially on the 3-point line,” McKee said. “I mean she’s always been good, but she’s become great at it.”

Cann hit 3-of-5 long range shots Wednesday.

Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell, however, noted Cann’s many other contributions. “Well, you know Makenzie has worked hard. She’s a good player. She is somebody who works at her game, works hard in practice, really can impact the game in many ways. I think she has done a nice job scoring and rebounding. I thought her passing was phenomenal today. I just thought she really moved the ball in an incredible way, and so she’s a threat out there on the court. I think the double-doubles have resulted from she’s really gotten tough on the boards. I mean, she’s going after some tough rebounds with two hands and taking them from people. So, I couldn’t be happier about her effort and I think she is showing a lot of toughness with that.”

Cann noted that McKee, who scored the bulk of her Anderson County career-best 2,612 points out of slashing drives to the basket, has become a much better shooter at Morehead. McKee hit 4-of-13 shots at UK, including 1-of-3 from beyond the arc, but through her career has made defenses honor the shot..

Cann said the irony is that when they played together at Anderson, she played on the perimeter while McKee was often stationed low. “It’s like things have been reversed,” Cann said of their college days.

The pair emerged from their team locker rooms to greet a good number of family and friends from Anderson County who attended the contest despite the 2 p.m. tipoff.

Cann and McKee posed for some photos, then went their separate ways.

For now.

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