Wildcats defeat Cookeville, Lady Cats win at
Cookeville, Lady Cats win at Smithville
Leah Thomas/OCN Sports
Ashley Matthews races past a fallen Lady Cavalier in the Lady
Wildcats' 47-55 loss to Cookeville on Monday, Dec. 12. Matthews
led LA in scoring with 13 points.
By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
At 5' 7", Livingston Academy's Tyler Smith was the smallest
player on the floor Monday night, Dec. 12 when the Wildcats hosted
the Cavaliers from rival Cookeville. With 4 seconds remaining in
the game and LA up by 2 points at 55-53, Smith suddenly became the
"tallest" player around.
"When I grabbed that ball and saw there was only 4 seconds
left on the clock, all I wanted to do was run," Smith said,
beaming, moments after he and his teammates had defeated Cookeville
for the first time in 8 years.
"To beat them is a dream come true for us. I've never beaten
them, and no one on this team has either," Smith continued.
"It was a hard fought game, pretty physical, and neither team
would give up.
"Cookeville is a good team, but tonight, we were better."
Whereas the boys took home top honors Monday, the Lady Wildcats
weren't as fortunate, falling to the Lady Cavs 47-55, in another
hard fought physical contest.
A relieved LA Coach Richard Melton commented, "I needed that
win and this team needed that win. It was a game in which we were
outmanned size-wise, but our kids never gave in, fought hard all
night, and in the end, got the win.
"Cookeville will always bring a good team to the floor, and
when you beat them, you have accomplished something."
Before a large crowd, Livingston jumped out to a 20-16 lead in
the first period on three straight baskets from Wilson Cates and
two 3-pointers from Brandon Matthews. Inside, Justin Monday held
his own on the boards, and before the night was over, the big center
would lead all rebounders with 14.
But the Cavaliers weren't about to fold and go away. In the second
period, after a slow start by both clubs, Cookeville ran off 9 points
to 8 for the home team and trailed by only 3 at 25-28 at intermission.
Monday said, "We knew at the half they were still here, and
coach told us at halftime that we would have to be consistent and
mistake-free if we wanted to pull this off.
"I think we were pretty consistent, but I'm not sure about
Sloppy play midway through the third frame allowed the Cavaliers
to pull within 2 at 34-36 on an 8-point run due mainly to turnovers
by the Wildcats.
Cates then nailed a 3-pointer with a minute and a half to go in
the period, and things settled down.
Coach Melton said after the game, "I only decided at lunch
today to start Wilson. Although he hasn't practiced at all with
us yet because of football, I just felt the team could use his maturity
out there, and it paid off. He made a couple mistakes, naturally,
but all in all, he did a good job."
Cates, who had 9 points on the night, said, "Man, I didn't
have a clue I was going to play tonight. I haven't practiced with
the team yet, and didn't know the signals or the plays or anything.
"Every time I had a chance, I would run by coach and ask a
question. This was a big win, and I'm just glad I got a chance to
be part of it."
Both teams continued the struggle as the final period started,
and Livingston was clinging to a 39-37 lead.
Chase Dunn got the Wildcats going early in the fourth with a big
3-point shot, Smith added another, and when Lance Ruble scored from
inside, suddenly LA was up by 10 at 47-37 with 5 minutes to go.
But back came the Cavaliers, and a 10-2 run over the next 3 minutes
closed the game to 47-49. Now the clock came into play.
Both teams had chances, but with LA leading 55-53, Cookeville got
the final big drive, but the shot hit the rim and bounced straight
"I didn't want to get fouled," Smith recalled, "and
surprisingly they didn't foul me. I held the ball 4 seconds and
we won. Man, that was great."
Matthews led the LA scoring with 14 points, followed by Ruble with
10 points and Monday with 8.
In the night's first game, the Lady Wildcats jumped all over the
visiting Lady Cavaliers in the first period, leading by 10 at 17-7
at the buzzer. Mallie Stephens started the shooting match with a
3-pointer, and Ashley Matthews added 3 more before Stephens closed
out the frame with her second 3-pointer.
Then the wheels came off. After going up 21-7, the Lady Cats saw
Cookeville take over in what became a very physical contest. In
the period, the Lady Cavs outscored LA 18-9, and trailed by only
1 at intermission, 25-26.
Center Haley Mullins said after the game, "I really can't
explain it. We were doing well early, but we got in foul trouble,
the game got a little rough, and we kinda had to hold back.
"We went cold shooting and we really made poor shot selections
in the second half, and Cookeville hit everything they threw up
The Lady Cavaliers took the lead for good at 32-31 midway through
the third period. In the period, the Lady Cats scored only 6 points,
while the visitors added 16.
In the final period, the Lady Cats fought back, but still came
Ashley Matthews had 13 points to lead the LA scoring, while Mullins
added 10, and Stephens and Megan Brown each hit for 8.
Lady Cats Coach Lesley Smith said, "If you're looking for
something good out of this, it is we played a very physical team
and we had a chance.
"Certainly we were disappointed with our overall performance
and the final outcome, but we got a lot of good experience that
will carry on down the road.
"We'll take our lumps, but learn and move on."
With Cookeville behind them, at least for a while, both Wildcats
teams headed back into district play Friday night, Dec. 16 on the
road at DeKalb County. What should have been two fairly easy wins
turned into nail-biters in both contests.
It was hard to find anyone who could remember the last time a Lady
Tigers team had won a district contest, but before the Lady Wildcats
pulled off a 72-67 victory, it wasn't hard to find someone who was
sure it would come before the season was over.
Going into the game, DeKalb's girls had lost 74 straight league
games, but at the intermission Friday night, the Lady Tigers were
on top of the LA girls 38-37 in a good, high-scoring contest.
In the first half, Ashley Matthews, with 13 points, and Haley Mullins,
with 11, managed to keep the Lady Cats close as the game went back
and fourth. Then in the third frame, the Lady Cats outscored the
home team 19-11 and managed to hang on in the fourth frame for their
fourth district win against no losses, and their seventh win overall
in nine tries.
Matthews led Livingston with 20 points, with Mullins adding 13
and Alison West dropping in 11. Freshman Chelsea Carr aided the
cause with 9 points, while Brittany McCoin hit for 7 and Jada Ledbetter
The Lady Cats now start an 11 game road stand that will carry them
to Cookeville for the MidSouth Classic this week then to the Greene
County Tournament in Greeneville, the week after Christmas. Livingston
will be back in district action starting January 6 at Gainesboro,
and will not return to home play until January 17 when they will
After the girls had to fight tooth and nail to come away with their
win at Smithville, the Livingston boys found the going not a bit
easier. As Lady Cats Coach Lesley Smith said before her game, "We
never play well here," the same could be said for Richard Melton
and his Wildcats.
When the final buzzer sounded, Livingston was on top 65-62 for
their fifth straight win, but it was a battle all the way.
Forward Lance Ruble explained after the game, "We weren't
in rhythm in the warm-ups, and we just never did find a consistent
rhythm all night. We weren't still getting over Cookeville at all,
we just had a hard time getting going, and I guess that happens.
"Fortunately, someone would hit their stride at a point, and
that helped us win. I never doubted we would win, but it didn't
look all that good at times."
Brandon Matthews hit his first 3-point shot of the night right
off the bat to give LA a 3-0 lead, but by the end of the first period,
the Wildcats trailed by 3 at 14-17.
In the second period, Tyson Stover hit three straight threes to
keep the Cats close, but at the end of the first half, DeKalb held
a 29-27 lead. Stover had 11 points in the period.
Then in the third frame, Wilson Cates found the range and hit
for 11 points, and defensively, the Wildcats buckled down and held
DeKalb to only 8 points while pouring in 21.
Coach Melton said, "The third period was a good one for us.
Actually, it saved us, and then someone would step up and hold us
together. It was a tough game from the start, and DeKalb deserves
a lot of credit."
Livingston held off a late surge by the Tigers, who closed a 48-37
gap at the end of the third frame, but the outcome was only decided
with 3 seconds left in the game. With 6 seconds remaining, Tyler
Smith sank two free throws to put the Wildcats up by 3, but on the
other end of the court, DeKalb had one last chance.
With a tick over 1 second left, DeKalb made a free throw then missed
a second, but the rebound went to a Tiger player who had one last
chance from 3-point range in the corner. The shot failed.
Cates led the Wildcat attack with 19 points, while Stover had 14
and Matthews added 13.
With a 5-4 overall record and 4-0 district mark, the boys, like
the girls, hit the road next week to Cookeville, then travel to
Nashville after Christmas, and won't see another home game until
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