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Archives 11-10-2004

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Cats maul first round playoff opponent
"New" Lady Wildcats to defend title
Boys team returns all starters, after football






Cats maul first round playoff opponent

Lyndon Johnson/OCN staff
Wildcats celebrate a touchdown in Friday's 42-14 win over Chattanooga-Howard in the first round of the TSSAA Class 3A playoffs. LA will host Trousdale County this Friday.

"New" Lady Wildcats to defend title

Dewain E. Peek/OCN staff
Members of the 2004-2005 Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats basketball team are, front row from left, #20 Mallie Stephens, #22 Britany Smith, #3 Alison West, #10 Ashley Matthews, second row, student assistant Cassie White, #14 Megan Brown, #33 Brittany McCoin, #40 Haley Mullins, #12 Jada Ledbetter, #24 Rebekah Jackson, student assistant Amber Peek, back row, student assistant Tiffany Livingston, Assistant Coach Elizabeth Woodard, #5 Krista Clinard, #23 April Handy, #32 Whitney Sells, #21 Kristin Hoover, Coach Lesley Smith, and student assistant Blair Hill.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
After winning 37 out of 40 games last season, taking the district and region tournaments and topping off the campaign with a state championship, one might think that this season will be nothing but downhill for the Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats.

To make the picture even bleaker, the Lady Wildcats graduated four of its five starters, including the state's top female player.

Could this be a total rebuilding season?

Livingston Lady Wildcats Coach Lesley Smith said, "Last season was one that comes to a coach probably once or twice during a career. Last year's team was one you dream about, but you also realize that we have graduation every year and these youngsters come through and then they are gone.

"We will certainly miss those who graduated like Katrina (Beechboard), Kellie (Thurman), Megan (Thompson), and Kasey (Baltimore), but we have to continue on, and believe it or not, this year's team, although not as talented right now, will be a very good team, hopefully not long into the season.

Optimistic? Not really.

Smith and Assistant Coach Elizabeth Woodard didn't quit working when last season was over. They took what remained, added a good group of sophomores, then headed out for summer camps to hone the skills of those coming back.

"We took this team to camps and played 28 games over the summer, and we won 14 against some very strong competition," Smith said. "We knew we couldn't replace those who graduated, but we also knew we had to rebuild this team. And that's what we have been doing since our last game last year."

Returning players this season include Haley Mullins and Megan Brown, both juniors, and Krista Clinard, Kristin Hoover, April Handy, and Whitney Sells, all seniors.

Alison West, Jada Ledbetter, Ashley Matthews, Mallie Stephens, Britany Smith, Rebekah Jackson, and Brittany McCoin are all sophomores.

"What you have to remember about this year's team is that the juniors and seniors all practiced every day against last year's championship team," Smith continued. "That in itself gives them a lot of experience, and I think this year's group is a lot more tuned in to details.

"They look at film of opposing teams and learn every move they make, and this has been showing up in practice. We aren't as strong in the shooting department, but we are a quick team that will press and trap every opponent, and that's going to help us.

"Inexperience in real game action will probably hinder us early in the season, but by Christmas, I believe we'll be just fine."

In the early going, a lot will depend on the leadership and play of Mullins, Sells, Hoover, Clinard, and Handy, but Smith feels they can get the job done. Besides, the coach pointed out that they remember everything from last year's efforts, and that will be a big plus.

"Naturally, everybody starts out the season with a state championship as the ultimate goal," the coach said. "Our kids are no different, and so we have developed the attitude of 'why not me'. If somebody has to win then why can't it be us?

"That, plus the fact that most of our opponents have never seen us play. For three years, they faced the team that won the 2004 title, but they know very little about this team. So I feel that's an advantage.

"I have been pleased so far in practice with the effort put forth, and have little doubt we will be right there come tournament time in February. I don't think the district (7-AA) is as strong as it has been in the past, and that will be in everyone's favor, including us," Smith said.

York Institute has the dist-rict's number one player in Brandi Brown, and Upperman and Smith County also appear to be contenders. At Jackson County, transfers from other schools in the district will again make Gainesboro a tough opponent.

"Last year was wonderful," the third-year coach concluded. "It was fun, and the team won it all. But that's no reason to think that we can't do it again.

"We have to take a few bumps and bruises early in the season, and we will, but I believe when we hit the stretch after the first of the year, we can be as competitive as anyone. And we'll just have to wait and see how far we come and how far we can go."

The Lady Wildcats will open the season Tuesday, Nov. 16 in the Hall of Fame Classic in Celina. The first home game will be November 23 against Pickett County.

Boys team returns all starters, after football

Dewain E. Peek/OCN staff
Members of the 2004-2005 Livingston Academy Wildcats basketball team are, front row from left, Emily Norrod, Megan Cantrell, and Kala Boles, team managers, middle row, Assistant Coach Dusty Whitaker, #22 Jeremy Murphy, #12 Blake Vaughn, #20 Brandon Matthews, #3 Wilson Cates, #4 Brad West, #15 Tyler Smith, #10 Wesley Puckett, trainer Chuck Wheeler, back row, #30 Tyson Stover, #54 Kalihib Lander, #11 Brian Colson, #43 Lance Ruble, Coach Danny McCoin, #25 Matthew Reeder, #42 Justin Monday, #33 Tyler Livingston, and team managers Seth Melton and Shawn Becerra.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
Ask Livingston Academy Boys Basketball Coach Danny Mc-Coin how many players he lost to graduation last year, and with a big smile, he will answer, "None".

Ask him when he hopes to have his team at full speed and ready to play he smiles again: "In five weeks".

Five weeks? The season starts in less than two.

McCoin's dilemma is an enviable one. With all his starters back from a team that posted a 17-19 record last year and was defeated in the regional tournament by the team that finished second in the state title game, McCoin sees this year's squad definitely in the running for post-season action.

On the other hand, as offensive coach of the football team, he is hoping the football edition of Livingston Academy is playing five weeks from now. If that's the case, then the Wildcats will be vying for the state championship.

Four round-ballers, Wilson Cates, Brian Colson, Matt Reeder, and Wesley Puckett are also vital players on this year's region 4-3A football team that posted a 9-1 regular season record and is now hoping to advance in the playoffs.

"That's kind of a unique situation," McCoin pointed out. "Right now, four of our players are across the street practicing football, and as long as the football team wins, they'll stay over there.Of course, when the playoffs are over, they will come in the gym, but I hope that's several weeks down the road. As long as they are across the street, we're still in the football playoffs."

In the meantime, 10 players are in the gym every afternoon, honing skills that could produce one of the Wildcats' finest teams in several years.

"We're not a big team this year," the coach continued, "but we have a lot of experience, we're quick, and we have some fine shooters. On any given night, we can be very good."

Senior Brad West will be called on to guide the team, and his outside shooting will be important. Colson, Reeder, and Puckett are also seniors, while Cates, along with Brandon Matthews, Justin Monday, Lance Ruble, Tyler Livingston, and Tyler Smith are all juniors.

Sophomore players include Tyson Stover, Blake Vaughn, Jeremy Murphy, and Kahalib Lander.

When he plays, Reeder is the team's tallest player at 6'4", followed closely by Monday at 6'3" and Ruble at 6'2".

According to McCoin, the team has been together for three years now, and although there were some tough times, this could be a season for Wildcat followers to remember.

"This group has been together for a while, and I think now it can show what it can do," the coach said. "We have good leadership, a lot of strength inside, and some fine shooters throughout the squad. Reeder and Colson are very strong inside, and Cates is about as quick as they come. West and Matthews are excellent shooters, along with Stover."

McCoin went on to point out that it will take a little while for his football players to get into basketball shape, but it shouldn't take long.

"Naturally, they are in good physical shape right now. It will just take a little adjusting, but by Christmas, that shouldn't be a problem. As a team, we won't have to make a lot of adjustments simply because the players have been together for so long. We'll just have to tweak things into shape."

McCoin sees York as a contender in the district. They are big and good.

"Our goal is to win the district, then the region and the state. That's every team's goal at the beginning of the season. We want to finish high in the district this year so we'll be in good position come tournament time.

"Last year, we were fourth and were pitted against Martin Luther King, the team that went to the state finals. It was a close game, but we lost. But this year, we would like to get a better draw, and we can do that by finishing better in the district.

"This team is going to be fun to watch and it has the potential to go a long way."

The Wildcats will open Tuesday, Nov. 16 in the Hall of Fame Classic in Celina.

 

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