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Archives 02-16-2005

Sports

 

Cats season champs, Lady Cats upend Lady Bees

 






Cats season champs, Lady Cats upend Lady Bees

Dewain E. Peek/OCN staff
The spotlight is on senior Brad West as he elevates for 2 of his 12 points against Upperman's Bees in the Livingston Academy Wildcats' season championship win.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
Last Friday night, Feb. 11, was Senior Night at Livingston Academy, and for the senior Wildcats and Lady Wildcats, it will be a night they will long remember.

For the boys, after four long years, they finally captured a district championship; and for the girls, a victory over the district's only undefeated team and the state's number 6 ranked squad will give them something to remember for a long time.

Senior Wildcats guard Brad West said, "This is what we have wanted for a long time. For the past four years, we've had teams that would win some and lose some, but this time we finally put it all together, and tonight we're the district champions. Finally."

West and his senior teammates Brian Colson, Matt Reeder, and Wesley Puckett, along with a super performance from junior Wilson Cates, destroyed any hopes Upperman might have had at a third straight title with a solid 67-58 LA victory.

This is also Coach Danny McCoin's first regular season championship as a head coach.

Prior to Friday's game, Livingston Academy boasted a 10-1 district record while the visiting Upperman team posted a 9-2 mark. A win by the Bees would have given them a share of the crown, something the Wildcats wanted no part of.

Reeder beamed after the game, "For the past two seasons it has been Upperman on top, and we were usually second. Not this time. We're on top, and we are assured a trip to the regional tournament as well.

"It's great to end our regular season, our final one as seniors, with this win and this championship."

The Wildcats now have a bye in next week's district tournament, which will be played at Sparta High School. The Wildcats will play their first game on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m.

During the regular season, LA and Upperman had split two previous encounters. The Wildcats defeated the Bees in a close game in the Mid-South Classic, then lost 45-53 at Baxter.

Colson said, "We didn't want any part of a co-championship. We went through that in football. This time we wanted it to be ours and ours alone. That was a game we felt we could win, and we went out and won it. It's great."

After a slow start by both teams, the Wildcats ripped off a 9-2 run midway through the first period, sparked by two 3-pointers from West and a soft touch in the lane by Reeder. Puckett then topped off the quarter with a 3-pointer, and Livingston held a 15-13 lead.

In the second quarter, strong offense led by Reeder, West, and Cates, along with some long balls by Tyson Stover, pushed the Wildcats ahead by 10 at 35-25 at intermission. Solid defense was the key to the breakout.

"We knew if we played good defense early, we could win," Reeder added, "and tonight we got off to a good start on defense, and that led to good offense."

By the time the third frame rolled around, Cates took over and scored 10 of his game-high 22 in the period. The outstanding junior used his lightning speed and smooth jump shot to spark the Wildcats to a 12-point advantage by the end of the frame.

Reeder dropped in 14 points on the night, West added 13, while Puckett had 8 and Colson 6. Almost as important as points were rebounds, and Reeder grabbed 13 missed shots, while Colson had 12 and Cates 11.

The win upped Livingston's record to 22-6, the best school record since 1997, and put the Cats on track of the school's best seasons of 31-4 in 1982 and 32-2 in 1992.

Earlier in the week, Reeder dropped in 20 points, West 18, and Lance Ruble 13 (all in the fourth period) to roll over Jackson County 69-53 in Gainesboro.

If the boys game against Upperman was exciting in that it meant a championship, the girls contest was just as breathtaking, and it showed that despite a 6-6 district mark this season, and a 16-11 overall record, the Lady Wildcats could play with anybody, including one of the state's top-ranked teams.

Upperman's Lady Bees rolled into Livingston sporting a perfect 11-0 district record, an impressive 15-5 overall mark, and a 6th place state ranking. From the outset it appeared a mismatch, but only minutes after the opening tipoff, it was apparent the Lady Cats had come to play and wanted to prove a point.

Using super defense and 6 straight points from Alison West to start the second period, the Lady Cats managed to stay close to the normally high-scoring Lady Bees, and trailed by only 4 at 22-26 at intermission. Whitney Sells had 4 points in the first period, and West had 6 in the second.

Sells and Ashley Matthews took over in the third period, pulling the Lady Cats ahead for the first time of the night at the 4:45 mark of the third frame, 31-28. LA went on to survive a late run by the Lady Bees after Ashley Matthews dropped in a foul shot for the Lady Cats with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game, and a desperation shot by Upperman failed.

Livingston's top scorer for the night, April Handy, along with Matthews, continued to drop in points, while Kristin Hoover and Krista Clinard sparked the defense. And while all that was going on, junior Haley Mullins took control of the boards.

"We knew we could do it," the four seniors (Hoover, Clinard, Handy, and Sells) echoed in harmony after the victory. "We set our minds to it and made it happen."

Hoover went on to explain, "We were very intense tonight, and our home crowd really got us into it. The crowd was great tonight.

"We played good defense all night, and that's been the key to us playing good all season. When we play defense, we usually have a good game. Handy led the offense with 7 points, while Mullins and West each added 6.

Coach Lesley Smith added, "We don't outscore many teams, so it's vital we play good defense. That's what we did tonight, and the players all understood that before the game. Now they believe we can do it, and that will help going into the tournament."

Earlier in the week, Jackson County defeated the Lady Cats 55-45. Mullins had 12 points in the loss, while Matthews added 10.

The Lady Wildcats will take their 4th place finish in District 7-AA to Sparta next week to face York Institute on Monday night, Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. The two teams split a pair of games during the regular season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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