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Archives 01-25-2006

Sports

Lady Wildcats sting Bees, win 3
Cats take district lead with 3 wins



Lady Wildcats sting Bees, win 3

Leah Thomas/OCN Sports
Mallie Stephens pulls up for a jump shot in the Lady Wildcats' District 7-AA win over Upperman's Lady Bees at Livingston Academy on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
Opponents facing the Livingston Academy girls now have several options: (1) they can let the Lady Wildcats get their points in threes; (2) they can let them get them one at a time.

In what could well have been their most important week thus far this season, the Lady Wildcats rolled to three straight victories, two big district 7-AA contests, and they did it in convincing fashion, combining long range shooting with deadly accuracy from the free throw line. On the week, the Lady Cats connected on 21 three-point shots and 40 of 59 attempts from the foul line.

"The win Tuesday night against Upperman was by far the biggest this season," LA's Megan Brown pointed out Saturday night after the Lady Cats had just defeated non-district foe Clay County. "I think we proved to ourselves that if we play the way we are capable of playing, we can win not only important games, but the big games as well."

For the week, Livingston's girls started out with a 77-74 overtime win over rival Upperman, then followed that victory with a 60-48 win over Macon County. The third win of the week was a complete 62-31 thrashing of Clay County.

LA Coach Lesley Smith said, "It was a very big week for us," smiling as she comprehended what had transpired over the past six days.

"Against Upperman, we played great defense and we never got rattled. It was a super high school basketball game between two fine teams, and on Tuesday night, we were the better of the two. "Upperman is a fine team and we'll have to face them several more times this season," Coach Smith said. "We now know we have the potential to beat them, but each time we play, we'll have to prove it."

Against Upperman, it took the very best Livingston had to pull out the victory. Three Lady Cats shot in double figures and hit nine 3-point shots. Livingston also shot a sizzling 59% from the floor for the night.

The Lady Bees held a slim 17-15 lead at the end of the first period, and were ahead by only one at intermission, 26-25.

Alison West later explained, "We felt if we stayed close, we had a chance. Against a team like Upperman, you can't let them get away because you'll never catch up."

West put her team up by a point, 39-38, to open the third frame with a basket from the lane, then the game went back and forth. Late in the period, Upperman pulled out to a 6-point lead at 52-46, but Jada Ledbetter nailed a 3-point shot with 30 seconds left to pull the Lady Cats to within 3 at 52-49 going to the final 8 minutes.

Haley Mullins opened the final frame with a basket in close, and West hit a 3-pointer to put Livingston back on top.

Upperman then found the 3-point range and hit several 3-pointers to regain the advantage.

But the Lady Cats weren't through.

With a little more than a minute to play, LA found itself down by 4 at 64-68. Mullins then blocked a shot, and Ashley Matthews drilled a 3-pointer at the other end of the floor. Following a basket by the Lady Bees, only 16 seconds remained on the clock and the Lady Cats were down by 3.

Matthews coolly brought the ball up court, found her spot and blasted in the tying 3-point shot. The packed house almost brought the ceiling down.

"I really didn't feel any pressure," Matthews later recalled. "Several of us had found the range, and I didn't think twice about taking the shot. Alison and Mallie (Stephens) were also in the range, so probably any of us could have taken the shot. It just happened to be me."

In overtime, Matthews continued her hot hand from long range, opening with a three then connecting on a pair of free thows. Livingston was up by 4 at 76-72. Matthews then sealed the win with another free throw with 6 seconds remaining.

"You dream of games like that," Matthews added. "It was a total team effort tonight, and it was probably our best game of the season. Everybody on this team gets a part of this one."

On the night, the Lady Cats hit 10 three-point shots. Matthews, Ledbetter, and West each had three and Stephens added one.

Matthews led the scoring for LA with 25 points, while West added 15 and Ledbetter accounted for 11. Mullins had 9 for the night, and Brown was good for 8.

After upending Upperman, it would have appeared that the remaining two games of the week would be a breeze, but that was not quite the case.

On the road at Macon County, the host Lady Tigers played a steady, ball control type game and just wouldn't go away.

Livingston led 13-11 at the end of the first period, and held a 29-21 advantage at intermission. Strong defense and steady shooting in the final two frames produced the Lady Cats' 15th win of the season and their 7th straight district victory.

Whereas it was the long ball that eventually downed Upperman, it was free throw shooting that sank the Lady Tigers. While Macon County was having a little trouble adjusting to the new region, they never did figure out that they shouldn't foul Matthews.

All during the second half Macon fouled Matthews, and she hit 10 straight from the line before missing, then ended the night with 16 of 19. For the second straight night she was the Lady Cats' leading scorer, this time with 27.

"My dad and I have been coming over to the gym every chance we get and I've been practicing free throw shots," Matthews later confessed. "Dad saw something I didn't realize in my delivery, and we worked on it. It is my place to control the ball, and if that was going to be the case, I needed to be consistent from the foul line."

West had 9 points in the win, while Mullins added 8 and Stephens and Ledbetter each hit for 7.

Saturday night's victory over Clay County was never in doubt, although the Lady Bulldogs kept it close through the first half, trailing by 7 at intermission at 20-27.

A torrid defense by Livingston in the third period allowed the visitors only 2 points while the home team was ripping the nets for 24. At the end of the period, Livingston was on top 51-22.

Again it was Matthews leading the way on offense with 17 points, while Ledbetter hit for 11.

Coach Smith said, "I really don't know what to say. Our players stepped up when they had to and got the job done.

"One night it was Ashley, then the next it might have been Jada or Haley or Mallie or Alison. All of them came on when they had to.

"Megan played extremely well Friday night, and I thought we got some good quality play from our bench.

"These three-game weeks are hard on all of us, but when we get to the tournaments, we'll have to do it; so maybe this will condition us for that.

"It was a very good week."

After travelling to Jamestown on Tuesday, Jan. 24 for a big district contest against York Institute, the Lady Wildcats will return home Friday, Jan. 27 to host DeKalb County in another District 7-AA game. The following night, Livingston Academy will host Pickett County in a non-district game that will start at 6 p.m.

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Cats take district lead with 3 wins

Leah Thomas/OCN Sports
The Wildcats' Justin Monday rises to the basket for 2 of his 14 points against Upperman's Bees in the Livingston Academy home win Tuesday, Jan. 17.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
Wilson Cates and Tyler Livingston were picking at their teammates Saturday night after a win over Clay County completed a perfect week that saw the Wildcats win three straight games and up their District 7-AA record to a perfect 7-0 mark, tops in the conference.

"It was no big deal to Tyler and me," Cates joked with his teammates. "They (Clay County) didn't beat us that first time. We were still playing football."

When Livingston Academy and Clay County met back in late November, the Bulldogs overcame a 17-point deficit to upend the Wildcats 60-64. At the time, Cates and Livingston were leading their football teammates to the state 3A football championship and didn't participate in the basketball game.

This time they did and it was sweet revenge for the Cats and especially their coaches, Richard Melton and Dusty Whitaker.

"Thanks, guys," Melton said to his squad shortly after Friday's convincing 83-43 trouncing of the Bulldogs. "Maybe my phone will quit ringing now. You guys played extremely well tonight, and don't think we left any doubt who has the better team."

While Melton and Whitaker were "off the hook" with the win, it was also some relief for the players as well.

Lance Ruble beamed, "It was a different night tonight. Not only did we get revenge for that loss early in the season, but for me, it was a much better night tonight.

"Last night (against Macon County) I don't think I could have dropped the ball off the Byrdstown bridge and hit the lake. Tonight, it all felt so much better; and once I got my confidence back, the ball started falling. That was a very good feeling."

With Ruble leading the way with 19 convincing points, the Wildcats sent the Bulldogs back to Celina with little doubt which team was best. Justin Monday and Tyson Stover ripped the cords for 14 each, and Chase Dunn got back on track with 12 points, his first double figure performance in a long time.

But while Saturday's win was for pride's sake, wins earlier in the week over Upperman and Macon County established Livingston as the top seed in the district and the favorite heading down the stretch for top seed in the tournament a little more than two weeks away.

When play started Tuesday night, Jan. 17, Livingston led the district with a perfect 5-0 mark and 12-7 overall. Tues-day's opponent, Upperman, was in second place with a 4-1 record.

Cates said, "We needed to have a good week. We have played well at times, but now we had two tough district games and the game with Clay County this week, and when it was over, we had won all three, and that's big.

"We're into the meat of our schedule now and just about every game is a district game, and we want to go to the tournament with the confidence that we beat everybody. That helps."

Stover started things rolling against Upperman with a 3-point shot, and from there on, Brandon Matthews lit up the floor from outside and Justin Monday controlled the inside.

Livingston took a 14-10 lead to start the game, led by 12 at 35-23 at the intermission, and rolled to a 68-50 win.

Matthews blistered the nets for 15 points on the night, and Monday added 14 inside. Tyler Smith hit double figures with 11, while Ruble put down 9 and Stover added 8.

Coach Melton said, "I'm happy with the win, but I wasn't all that impressed with our intensity. We are better than that, and we have to be better than that to keep on winning."

Just like Tuesday night, Stover opened Friday's game at Macon County with a three, and the Cats were off and running to a 15-7 first period lead.

Midway through the second period, the Cats doubled the score at 30-15 on the hot shooting of Matthews and good defensive play all over the court.

Monday picked up the pace in the third period, hitting LA's first 4 points. Matthews added a three, and when the buzzer ended the frame, Livingston Academy was on top and cruising 51-39. The Cats ended with a 64-50 win.

Monday led the way with 20 points, while Matthews had 12, Stover 9, Cates 7, Dunn 6, and Ruble 5.

Ruble later admitted, "I couldn't hit anything. I kept trying, but it seemed nothing would fall.

"I guess some nights are like that, but you have to keep shooting, hoping sooner or later you'll get the touch. That's all I could do."

Saturday night the touch came back.

It was almost like a rerun of an old movie when things started between LA and Clay County. Stover opened with a 3-pointer, but unlike Friday night, Ruble found the touch early. His layup behind Stover's three put the Cats out by 5, then he added a pair from the foul line. From then on, it wasn't close.

In the first period, Livingston outscored the visitors 22-9, and led big at the half.

A fast-breaking offense and some outstanding defense helped the Wildcats to a 17-6 third period advantage.

In the fourth frame, it was all Livingston as the Wildcats poured on the heat, ripping the cords for 26 impressive points. Clay County could find only 11 points in the period.

Livingston opened this week's three-game schedule with a 7-0 district record and a 15-7 overall record. In district standings, Upperman is second with a 5-2 mark, followed by Macon at 4-3, DeKalb at 4-2, Smith at 2-5, York at 2-4, and Cannon County at 0-6.

After travelling to Jamestown on Tuesday, Jan. 24 to play York Institute in a District 7-AA game, the Wildcats will return home Friday and Saturday to host DeKalb County and Pickett County, respectively.

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