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Archives 01-04-2006

Sports

LA Wildcats place 3rd in tournament
Lady Cats play in Greene County tourney



LA Wildcats place 3rd in tournament

Dewain E. Peek/OCN file photo
LA's Lance Ruble averages near 10 points per game in the East Literature Classic held last week in Nashville.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
If the Livingston Academy boys basketball team had any wonders of just how they stack up, those questions may well have been answered last week as they took on some of the mid-state's best 2A and 3A schools and came away with a 2-1 record and a strong third place in the East Literature Classic in Nashville.

With an overall 8-4 record in their baggage, the Wildcats resumed play after Christmas with the main intention of getting better and having fun. They achieved both goals.

"I wanted the kids to have some fun," explained LA Coach Richard Melton. "We stayed in Nashville, played well for the most part, and had a really good time. That was important.

"We could have come home every night, but I wanted us to spend some time on the road together, get to know each other better, and enjoy ourselves.

"Plus, I wanted us to win some basketball games, too."

Senior standout Wilson Cates reported Friday morning, still half asleep, "We did have a good time. It was great time for all of us.

"We played pretty good ball over there, and we spent a lot of time together off the court. We may have had too good a time because Thursday's game was probably our worst. But I think everybody was about ready to come home."

In the opening game for Livingston on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 27, the Wildcats took on a powerful Station Camp team and came away with an impressive come-from-behind 84-79 victory.

After trailing by as many as 11 points early in the contest, the Wildcats, especially Brandon Matthews, got hot. Matthews nailed five 3-pointers in the game, and led all scorers with 27 points, to help his team pull away in the late-going for the win.

Coach Melton said, "That game kinda set the stage for us. We got double figure scoring from (Justin) Monday with 16, Wilson (Cates) with 12, (Lance) Ruble hit 11, and Chase (Dunn) added 10.

"The comeback also was a good sign in that we finally figured out that we could, if we played well. That was important."

After being knotted at 60 at the end of the third frame, the game see-sawed back and forth until Monday's put-back gave Livingston a 66-65 advantage. Then Dunn nailed a 3-pointer, Cates drove in for a layup, and steady free throw shooting down the stretch by Dunn and Monday iced the win.

LA's Tyler Livingston said, "Station Camp is probably the best team in their region, and we might see them again down the road in tournament play. It was good for us to have a strong game against them, and we did.

"Everybody that hit the floor played well."

Melton said, "Tyler really came in and gave us a super strong performance. On defense, he was the trigger, and it was good to see him have his best game of the season so far."

Things didn't get any easier for the Wildcats on day two as they took on Clarksville, one of the best 3A teams in the mid-state.

And although they trailed the entire way, late in the game, a surge brought the Wildcats to within a point at 69-68, before losing 69-76.

Cates said, "I feel like we should have won that game. We got behind, then came back and we had it going, but we just could never quite get over the hump.

"Brandon (Matthews) hit that 3-pointer in the fourth that got us to within one, but Clarksville was a good team, and they didn't lose their poise and hung on to win."

Coach Melton said, "That was a good effort on our part. Clarksville was one of the two best teams we've seen this season, and I was pleased, although we didn't win, with our play. They were big and talented, but our players never backed up, and that says a lot about our players.

"Hey, we like a challenge, and I just thought we took this one head-on and almost won."

Cates and Monday were the hot hands for the Wildcats in the loss, with Monday topping the LA scoring with 21 points, and Cates adding 19. Lance Ruble tacked on 10 for the only other Wildcat to hit double figures.

"Wilson played probably his best game of the season, both offensively and defensively," Coach Melton continued. "Monday played well the entire tournament, but in this game, his rebounding and his shooting really kept us in the game.

"Just about every game, Justin was in against bigger players, but he held his own.

"Defensively, we did okay, but we just couldn't stop Shawn Dowling, and that proved fatal to us. He's a really fine player, and he had 27 against us. If we could have stopped him, or even slowed him down, then I feel like we could have won."

On day three, playing for third place in the classic, the Wildcats took on South Doyle of Knoxville in a game that looked as if it could have gone either way. The Wildcats hung on for a 54-52 win.

Cates said, "I think we were a little tired and ready to come home. I really think we should have won easier, but we won and that's the good news. Everyone kinda slowed down, but when we had to, the team stepped up and got the job done."

From start to finish, neither team could get away from the other. At the end of the first period, the game was tied at 11 and Livingston held only a 2-point advantage at the half at 23-21. At the end of three, the lead for LA was only 1 at 38-37.

Then, as the game was winding down, Tyson Stover and Ruble pushed the Cats out to a 6-point lead at 47-41 with only 3 minutes remaining. But South Doyle just wouldn't go away, and actually took the lead at 50-49. Then with 31 second left, Stover hit for his 9th point of the period and put Livingston back on top, this time to stay, 51-50.

Coach Melton said, "Tyson had a super fourth period and we sure needed it. And Lance made one of the finest defensive plays I've ever seen as he went parallel to the floor to deflect a pass and Tyler Smith was there to get the ball. A very critical play.

"We got some good play from Jeremy McLearran and Deven Ramsey also. They came off the bench when we got in some foul trouble, and played extremely strong inside. They were able to allow us to keep it together when we really needed to hold our own."

South Doyle had the last shot at the basket, needing 2 to tie and 3 to win. They took both shots and missed on both tries.

The scoring was spread evenly across the lineup. Monday led the way for Livingston with 14, while Stover had 9, Ruble 8, and Cates, Dunn, and Matthews each added 7.

Cates and Monday were named to the All-Tournament Team, and Clarksville was the eventual winner of the event.

"I believe our kids came away from that tournament knowing they are a pretty good team if they do as they can do," Coach Melton said. "We played good teams, beat two of them, and could have beaten the other if a break had gone this way or that.

"We're coming together and that's the main thing now as we head back to the district part of our schedule. We've been on the road since before Christmas, played and beaten several 3A schools, and really didn't have a bad night

."If you do that well on the road, you can't help but get excited about coming back home."

The Wildcats will be in Gainesboro on Friday night, Jan. 6 to take on the Jackson County Blue Devils, then will travel to Nashville to take on David Lipscomb the following Tuesday for a non-region game. The Cats will play at Smithville on Friday, Jan. 13, then hit the home court for six of their next seven games.

 

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Lady Cats play in Greene County tourney

Dewain E. Peek/OCN file photo
Haley Mullins led the Lady Wildcats with 16 points in Livingston Academy's tournament win over South Greene.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
While the Livingston Academy boys took I-40 west to Nashville over the Christmas holidays, the Lady Wildcats loaded up and headed east to the Greene County Bank Ladies Classic near Greeneville.

"It's a very big tournament and we're fortunate to be invited back over here," LA Coach, Lesley Smith said. "Two years ago we finished third, which was a good showing because there will be teams here from all over like Kentucky, Tennessee, and even as far away as Washington State. It will be a good test for our youngsters to see just how we stack up."

When it was all over, the Lady Cats found they were better than some and not as good as others as they posted a 2-2 record in the event.

Tuesday was opening day for the event and Livingston took on West Greene in the opening round. The Lady Cats were expected to do well against the Lady Buffalos and they did, coming away with a convincing 71-34 victory.

"I thought we played very well as a team," Coach Smith said. "We got good, balanced scoring from our starters, and the bench did a good job of resting players. It was a good start for us as you always want to win that opening round."

Livingston was in control from the very outset, racing out to a 17-8 first period advantage and expanding it to 56-26 at intermission.

Ashley Matthews and Mallie Stephens paced the Lady Cats with 13 points each while Megan Brown added 10, Haley Mullins 9, Alison West chipped in 8, and Rebekah Jackson hit for 7.

On the night, Livingston hit 53% from the floor and held a 37-25 advantage in rebounding, thanks mainly to Mullins' strong play under the boards. The Lady Cats also were hot from long range, connecting on 7 of 18 shots from 3-point range.

On day two, LA faced one of the tournament's stronger teams in Heritage of Maryville, and lost a heartbreaker 41-42.

"We knew we had to play our best ball to stay with Heritage," Coach Smith said after the game, "and I thought we did a very good job. We had a chance to win, and that's all you can ask for.

"Heritage had a height advantage and they have some outstanding guards who can really control the tempo of a game. And they did just that."

LA jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead early in the game, and forced Heritage to miss its first four shots at basket. At the end of the first period, Livingston held a 13-11 lead.

And it stayed that way through the second period as the game went back and forth. Mullins put the Lady Cats up by 4 at 15-11 with a shot from inside, and Jada Ledbetter added to the lead with a strong put-back. But Heritage fought back with some long-range shooting, and held a 21-20 lead at the half.

Matthews got the Lady Cats ahead for 5 with three straight baskets to open the third period. But as in the second frame, Heritage hit a 3-point play to knot the game at 28, then went on to score 5 straight points to lead 33-28 going into the final period.

Heritage used a 16-2 run, beginning in the third period, to take a 37-30 lead with time running down.

Then LA ripped off 4 straight points to again close the gap to 3 at 34-37.

"I thought we might be able to keep it going at that point," Coach Smith said. "Both teams seemed to get momentum, then turn it over to the other. It was that kind of game from start to finish."

Stephens hit a big 3-pointer with just under a minute to play to tie the score at 41, but Heritage made one of two free throws with only 3 seconds left to take the victory.

Matthews and Stephens each had 9 points in the game, followed by Mullins with 8. The Lady Cats also shot fairly well with a 42% mark, but never could get the long-range ball to fall.

On day three, the Livingston girls took on South Greene and cruised to a 70-56 win.

The outcome of the game was never in doubt as the Lady Cats raced out to a 21-9 first period lead, then doubled their oppo-nent's score, 44-22, at intermission. They maintained the 20-point advantage throughout the third period, then allowed South Greene to stage a mild comeback late.

"That was a good game for us," Coach Smith said. "South Greene is a 2A school much like us, so it gave us a chance to see how we would stack up against teams in our region. I thought we did quite well.

"Haley (Mullins) had a really super game, both on the boards and in shooting, and again we had three players in double figures and shot over 50% for the game."

Mullins paced the Lady Cats with 16 points, while Matthews added 11 and Brittany McCoin hit for 10.

Then Livingston Academy ran into Prairie, the No. 1 girls team in the state of Washington.

From the outset, the Lady Falcons proved why they were the pre-tournament favorite as they roared out to a 21-14 advantage in the first period, led by 18 at the half, 42-24, and pulled away to a 65-45 win.

"Their best player got hurt early in the first game and they lost by one point," Smith pointed out. "Had that not have happened, I feel confident they would have played for the championship.

"They were a very sound, fundamental team with very big players who could shoot well. It's hard to beat a combination like that.

"I was proud of our effort though," Smith added. "By day four everyone was tired and ready to come home, but the experience of playing big, strong teams from all over will help our team.

"Even when we were down by 20 against Prairie, we didn't panic, and we continued to do what we knew we could do. Our shots wouldn't fall from long range, and we had to have that since we were much smaller than Prairie.

"They were a very good team and I was excited just to have a chance to play them."

Matthews was the only LA player to hit double figures as she tallied 16. Jackson had 6 points and West added 5.

With an 11-5 record, the Lady Cats will return to action Friday night, Jan. 6 in Gainesboro against Jackson County's Lady Blue Devils in a district game, then will travel to Nashville on Tuesday, Jan. 10 to play David Lipscomb High School.

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