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Archives 02-15-2006

Sports

Lady Wildcats defeat Owlettes in OT
Wildcats notch another district win



Lady Wildcats defeat Owlettes in OT

Mac McLeod/OCN Sports
Alison West appears surrounded in Friday's home win over Smith County's Owlettes. West scored 11 points in the district game, which the Lady Wildcats won in overtime.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
By halftime of the Livingston Academy's boys game Friday night, Feb. 3, Megan Brown had changed from her uniform and back into street clothes and was sitting in the grandstands watching. She may have looked like any other fan in the packed house, but inside, her stomach was still churning.

"Those kind of games tear me up," Brown confessed. "It was a big game for both teams, both teams played well, and we came through in the end when we had too. I'll still be nervous when I go to bed."

Brown and her Lady Wildcats teammates had just defeated a strong Smith County team 60-54 in overtime to extend their overall mark to 18-7, but more importantly, 9-1 in District 7-AA competition.

"Overall, I thought we played well tonight," Brown continued. "Defensively, we played really well in the second and third periods. But it was our defense in the overtime that really determined the outcome. We held them to 2 points, and that was the difference."

There wasn't much defense early in the game as Smith County used five 3-point shots to race out to a 23-15 lead in the first 8 minutes. But, although the Lady Wildcats gave up the long shots, they weren't doing badly themselves in the scoring department.

LA Coach Lesley Smith pointed out after the game, "There isn't much you can do when a team gets hot from outside. You just have to adjust your defense and put much more pressure on those shooters who are hot. I thought we did a good job of that tonight.

"Megan and Alison (West) really played outstanding defense tonight, making several key steals and appeared everywhere on the floor."

In the second period, LA used the inside power of Haley Mullins and the outside shooting of Ashley Matthews to pop in 17 points, while holding Smith County to 8. At the intermission, LA was on top 32-31.

West later pointed out, "They got off to a hot start, but we played steady and finally took the lead, and once we did, we felt like we could win.

"We started doing a better job of recovering from a missed shot, and although that's something most people don't recognize, it's a critical part of the game."

Throughout the third frame, the contest stayed close, with each team taking the lead on almost each trip up and down the court. And when it was over, Livingston held a slim 2-point margin at 40-38.

Matthews said, "You have to give Smith credit. They just wouldn't go away, and we had to play as hard as we could all night. Those kind of games are nerve racking, but they are fun because you do have to play as hard as you can all night."

Mallie Stephens opened the final period with a bucket, upping the LA lead to 4, and West upped it 7 with a basket and a foul shot. But Smith County countered with a big 3-point play.

Mullins then hit 2 of her 8 straight shots from the foul line in what appeared to be the killing blow.

But again Smith County answered with a pair of 3-pointers from Monica Hembree, and when the buzzer ended regulation play, the game was knotted at 52.

"We should have won in regulation," Matthews continued, "but I couldn't make the free throw. I guess Dad and I will be back here over the weekend practicing foul shooting. I have to get better at that.

On the night, Livingston Academy made 24 of 37 free throw attempts and missed many key first shots on a one-and-one situation.

In the overtime period, Brown started out making the first of a one-and-one, but missed the second, and Hembree pulled her team to within 1 on a basket.

Brown then missed 2 free throws, but Matthews and Mullins connected to give the Wildcats some breathing room. Matthews then hit one of two from the line, and West did likewise. Down the stretch, Matthews hit a pair of free throws to ice the win.

"Those last two free throws made me feel a little better," Matthews added. "If I had done that earlier, we wouldn't have had to go to overtime."

On the night, Matthews led the Lady Cats in scoring with 21 points, while Mullins added 12 and West was good for 11.

Coach Smith said, "We played well tonight, and Smith County did likewise. It was a good game for us."

Things didn't go quite as well Saturday, Feb. 4 when the Lady Cats traveled to Cleveland for a non-district contest. Only minutes after the game started, Livingston Academy was already out of it and the Lady Blue Raiders were racing away to a convincing 81-50 victory.

Falling behind 9-26 in the first frame, the Lady Cats just couldn't stop the hot-shooting Lady Raiders. Cleveland led 46-20 at intermission and poured it on throughout the second half.

On the night, the home team shot an astounding 64% from the floor and missed very few free throws. On the other hand, the Lady Cats were simply cold from the outset and never could find a flicker of fire.

"Cleveland was a very good team," Coach Smith said. "They were quick and they could shoot, and that's a deadly combination.

"I'm glad we went down there and played because it gave us a chance to see what we have to do when we play strong opposition. Of course, Cleveland is a 3A school, but our kids need to be able to adjust to those situations, and you have to know that sometimes you just get beat by a better team.

"It was a good learning experience for us, and this week we'll need all the experience we can get as we face both Cannon and Upperman in big district games.

"If we can win those games and finish either first or second in the district, it will be a big step up for us," Coach Smith said. "Last year we were fifth in the district. So we have come a long way."

Matthews again led the Lady Cats scoring with 14 points that included two 3-pointers, while Mullins added 8 points, Jada Ledbetter hit for 6, and Stephens added 5.

After travelling to Woodbury to take on Cannon County on Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Lady Cats will travel to Baxter on Friday, Feb. 10 for the big showdown against Upperman's Lady Bees in a game that should determine the regular season champion.

Livingston Academy will host Pickett County's Lady Bobcats the following night, then LA will host Jackson County for Senior Night on Tuesday, Feb. 14 to end the regular season.

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Wildcats notch another district win

Leah Thomas/OCN Sports
Brandon Matthews shoots out of a crowd for 2 of his 16 points against Smith County.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
If every game was as easy as Livingston Academy's romp over Smith County on Friday night, Feb. 3, coaches would never second guess themselves, but they aren't and late Saturday night, LA Coach Richard Melton was wondering just why he didn't change some things against Cleveland.

"I think looking back at the game, I should have changed our defense earlier, but at the time, things were going pretty much like I thought they should, so I didn't.

"I guess the loss was as much my fault as it was the team's."

Coach Melton was referring to the Blue Raiders' 79-72 upending of the Wildcats on a snowy evening at Cleveland. On Friday night, the Wildcats had an easy time rolling over Smith County, 75-51.

"I'm glad we went to Cleveland," Coach Melton continued. "It was good experience for us, but I wish I had changed our defense when they started making all those 3-pointers. And, in the third period, we just went ice cold shooting and rebounding, and against a good team like Cleveland, you can't do that and get away with it."

Not being able to match up with the Wildcats in height, the Raiders made up for the disadvantage with speed, outstanding rebounding, and super shooting, especially in the second half.

The loss leaves Livingston Academy with a fine18-8 record, but most importantly, the Wildcats remain undefeated in district play at 10-0.

"You are never pleased with a loss," Coach Melton added, "but this game was more for experience than anything else. It wasn't a district game, and playing a good 3A team will only help us."

Justin Monday had an outstanding first half for the Wildcats and helped in keeping the game close at the half, 41-38. In the first two periods, Monday put in 11 points, and added 15 in the second half for 26 on the night.

But Monday couldn't do it alone, and although Brandon Matthews and Wilson Cates each added 13 to support the cause, it was missed shots and turnovers that finally allowed the Raiders to race out to a 17-point lead late in the game.

In the third period, Cleveland outscored Livingston 20-11, and most of the advantage came on costly turnovers and missed shots by the visitors. Three-pointers by Cates and Matthews in the late going closed the margin.

"Although we were down by about 17 at one point, I was glad to see the final score be much closer, which was actually how close the game really was," Coach Melton pointed out.

Friday night was much more to the liking of the Wildcats and their home fans as the Cats blistered Smith County for the second time this season. In the two meetings of the two district foes this year, Livingston has won both by a combined margin of 66 points.

After the home game, Tyler Smith said, "We started out strong and played well, but we went through a spell there where we kinda let our guard down. It was good to get back on track because you really need to play strong the entire game."

Taking a 23-9 advantage in the first period, the Wildcats rambled to a 42-18 halftime lead, and were up by 30 at 63-33 at the end of the third period.

It was well-rounded scoring plus strong rebounding inside that highlighted the victory. Matthews was good for 16 points and Chase Dunn added 14, and they were the only players in double figures. Lance Ruble had 8 points, Cates contributed 6, and almost every member of the team got in the scoring column.

On the night, the Wildcats were good on 43% of their shots, and simply dominated the rebounding on both ends of the floor.

Monday said, "We can get the job done if we set our minds to it. It was good tonight that everyone played and almost everybody scored. That builds confidence.

"Next week, we have two district games, and if we win both, we'll be perfect in the district for the season (12-0) and win our second straight district title.

"That's what we are after now. Then it's on to the regions. We have to take it one step at a time and just go out every night and play like we're capable of playing."

After travelling to Woodbury to take on the Cannon County Lions in a District 7-AA contest on Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Wildcats will travel to Baxter to take on Upperman's Bees on Friday, Feb. 10. On Saturday night, the boys will play a make-up game at home with Pickett County, scheduled for 6 p.m.

Livingston Academy will host Jackson County for Senior Night on Tuesday, Feb. 14 to end the regular season.

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