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80 Years Ago

Archives 02-15-2006


Cats clinch 7-AA season championship
Lady Cats take 7-AA season runner-up

Cats clinch 7-AA season championship

Mac McLeod/OCN Sports
Brandon Matthews makes an acrobatic shot during the District 7-AA season clinching victory over the Upperman Bees in Baxter on Friday, Feb. 10.

Two objectives were at the top of the list on Friday night, Feb. 10 when the Livingston Academy Wildcats travelled to Baxter to take on the Upperman Bees: (1) win the game and finish a perfect 12-0 in district play; (2) get out of town before the predicted snow storm started.

"Maybe we won't need any timeouts, and hopefully, the refs won't call a lot of fouls," LA Coach Richard Melton joked before the game started.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, neither happened as Coach Melton had to take several critical timeouts late in the game, and the officials called enough fouls throughout the game to foul out the Wildcats' big man, Justin Monday, and give several players 3 and 4 fouls each.

The good news for LA was, despite the trouble, the Wildcats managed to clip Upperman 57-54 for the perfect 12-0 district season, and the snow held off long enough for everyone to get home safely.

Senior Wilson Cates stated after the game, "Everybody we play now is gunning for us. We're seeing everybody's best game, and therefore we have to play a much better brand of ball.

"Tonight, we played well enough to win against a good Upperman effort, but we can and will have to play better when we get into the tournament."

As he did when he led the Wildcats to the state football championship back in December, Cates came through when he was needed most to score a critical fourth quarter basket that held off the Bees' fierce fourth quarter charge.

But long before Cates and also Tyson Stover were called on for final period heroics, the Cats had to claw all night just to hang onto the lead.

In the early going, Upperman raced away to a 10-3 lead, but some steady shooting by Lance Ruble early and a strong defense allowed Livingston Academy to climb back into the game and finally take the lead at 11-0.

From that point on, the Wildcats managed to hold the lead until late in the game. It was a see-saw battle much of the way through the second period, but by intermission, Livingston was on top 36-31, and an early third period blast saw the Wildcats extend the lead to 10 at one point.

Then Upperman started taking charge on every opportunity the Wildcats would offer, controlling the boards and making easy layups.

LA's Tyler Smith explained, "We got a little sloppy at that point. I don't think we thought we had the game won; I think we just kinda relaxed and Upperman, with nothing to lose, really came on strong.

"I think if they won, they would finish second in the district, and that added to their desire to want to win."

Going into the final 8 minutes, Livingston led by 6 at 43-37, but midway through the period, the Wildcats just couldn't put the game away. With 2 minutes remaining and the Bees trailing by only 1, Cates made a driving layup that put a little breathing room between the two teams. Then Stover iced the win with some clutch field goals.

Coach Melton told his team after the game, "I believe we needed a game like that. They made us earn it tonight, and that was good.

"We need to know that we are going to have to work for what we get from now on out, and tonight Upperman made us work.

"We didn't get many breaks tonight either," the coach continued. "We got hit with two technical fouls early, which allowed them to get 4 points and the ball both times. We were hit with a technical when we turned in the wrong number for one of the players, and then one of the players didn't agree with a call.

"Those things happen, but some of the other things we did we can avoid.

"I thought some of the calls on Justin (Monday) were a little iffy, but you have to learn to live with that. But we're still not shooting as well as we can," Melton added.

"From here on out, it doesn't matter who we play, we are going to have to play our best game to keep on winning.

"I'm real proud that we went through the district undefeated. That's a great accomplishment, and it says a lot about our team.

"But when the tournament starts, everything we've done up until this point means nothing. Anybody can beat us, and everybody wants to, so we know the score from the outset."

Nobody hit double figures in the game for LA, as Stover led the way with 9 points while Ruble and Brandon Matthews each had 8 and Cates and Monday added 6 each.

Tuesday night, Feb. 7 at Cannon County was a much different story. Cannon County didn't have a chance to start with. The Lions brought a 1-24 overall mark and a 0-11 district record into the game, and when the night was over, the numbers were only worse.

On the other hand, the Wildcats came into the game with an 18-8 overall mark and a perfect 10-0 district record. The only thing in doubt at the opening tip-off was the margin of victory. When it was over, the margin was 36 as the Cats nailed down the win, 81-45.

Stover opened the game with a pair of 3-pointers, Ruble drove the lane for two more baskets, Matthews hit a three, and Cates climaxed a steal with a driving layup. Before the spectators were settled in their seats, LA was on top 27-11 and rolling.

At intermission, Livingston led 47-25, and opened the second half with 4 straight points. The outcome was never in doubt.

But there was reason for concern. On the night, LA hit only 41% of its shots, and Coach Melton couldn't put his finger on the problem.

"Some nights, shots just won't fall," the coach pointed out. "That's just the nature of the game, but we are having too many nights when we aren't getting good percentages. It may be a lack of concentration, poor shot selection, or a combination of the two.

"Of course, defense has something to do with that, but we should be and need to be shooting better, and we'll need to work on that.

"It has been a good week for us, and now after one more regular season game, we have to start preparing for the tournament. We get a bye the first night, but that's not always good since we're playing on a neutral court (Tennessee Tech) and that gives the other teams an extra night to get used to the new floor. That's the way it is and we'll deal with it. We're looking forward to continuing to play." With last week's wins, the LA boys stand at 20-8 overall with a Tuesday night, Feb. 14 encounter with Jackson County at home to end the regular season. LA will begin District 7-AA Tournament play at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21.

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Lady Cats take 7-AA season runner-up

Mac McLeod/OCN Sports
Mallie Stephens is obstructed as she attempts to bring the ball inside for the Lady Wildcats in Friday's loss to the Upperman High School Lady Bees at Baxter.

Any time the Lady Bees of Upperman and the Lady Wildcats of Livingston Academy get together, the winning team will certainly have to bring their best game.

Recent history shows that both schools bring top-notch teams to the contest and the outcome is often determined by the most minute detail.

Back in early January, the two teams had to go to overtime to settle the issue, which was won by Livingston. When the two met Friday, Feb. 10 at Baxter, it was another barnburner. This time, it was Upperman taking the win, and with it, the regular season district championship with an 11-1 district mark, as opposed to LA's 10-2 record.

But it would not necessarily be a "minute detail" that separated the two teams this time around. Matter of fact, it would be a huge advantaged Upperman that would ultimately determine the winner.

Livingston's leading scorer, Ashley Matthews had been sick all week, and even though she did her best to play, her illness was a tremendous disadvantage to the Lady Wildcats' game plan. With her almost 14 points-per-game average missing, it was easy to see how the Lady Cats fell 44-49.

Teammate Alison West pointed out after the game, "Put Ashley's 14 points in the game and the outcome might have been different. But she was a very sick girl, and it was amazing that she could play at all.

"I don't know how many she had tonight (4), but we sure missed her points."

Not only did Livingston Academy miss Matthews' points, they almost forgot to show up for the first period of the game as well. In that first period, the Lady Bees played their normal game and put 16 points on the scoreboard. The Lady Cats on the other hand just couldn't get started, and answered with only 3.

Center Haley Mullins said, "That killed us. I really don't know what happened. Maybe we were nervous or whatever, but that was a horrible first period. Even if we had just played badly we should have scored more than 3, but that's what we did.

"The rest of the game we actually outplayed them, and outscored them in the final three periods."

Perhaps the fact the game was moved up 40 minutes due to an impending snow storm was the problem. Maybe the Lady Cats were programmed to start play at 6 p.m and this one, started at 5:20, hurt. No one could put a finger on the reason, but once the first period ended, it turned into a top-notch game.

In the second period, led by Mullins and Matthews, the Cats started clawing back. But Upperman hit a couple 3-pointers, and at intermission Livingston still trailed, but by only 9 this time, not the 13 at the end of the first frame.

Jada Ledbetter said, "We started putting it back together in the second half. We really played poorly in the first period, but it dawned on us that we were better than this, and if nothing else, pride was on the line.

"If you look at the entire game, we won the last three quarters."

Livingston outscored the home team 18-14 in the second period, 8-7 in the third frame, and 15-13 in the fourth quarter, but the big hole dug in the first eight minutes was just too great to climb out of.

In the third period, Livingston really put it all together and pulled to within 6 with two minutes remaining. The big problem now was fouls. Ledbetter and West had 4 each, and Mullins had 3.

Megan Brown cut the lead to 4 at the outset of the fourth frame, then Upperman went into a stall. Mullins finally managed to get her hands on the ball to score and get the Lady Cats back to within 5 at 40-45. A pair of free throws later in the period by West again cut the margin to 4 at 42-46. But that was as close as the Lady Cats could get.

LA Coach Lesley Smith asked, "What do you do when you start off like that?

"But the kids came back and that's the bright spot. They could have easily folded, but they didn't. They came back and played the kinda ball they can play, and that was good for them. They realized that they are a good team and that they have to keep plugging away."

"Ashley being sick surely hurt our effort, but those are things beyond anyone's control. So you go out and do the very best you can.

"I think we did after the first period, and maybe we just didn't adjust fast enough for Ashley not being there."

West led the LA scoring with 11 points, while Mullins added 10. Mallie Stephens, Ledbetter, and Brown each put in 6, while Matthews could only manage 4.

Earlier in the week, the Lady Cats had little trouble rolling over Cannon County 75-37.

Livingston raced out to a 23-12 first period lead, then went to the dressing room at intermission holding a convincing 45-24 advantage.

In the scoring department, it was a big night for Ledbetter as she rolled up 18 points in her best scoring effort of the season.

"They were falling from everywhere," Ledbetter explained with a big smile. "That was fun. Scoring was fun, but we were also playing really well as a team. Everybody got in and everybody played well. That was what made it so much fun."

Brown had 13 points on the night, while Matthews hit for 11, Stephens had 6, and West 5 as did Rebekah Jackson, while Brittney McCoin and Mullins contributed 4 each.

The Lady Cats ended District 7-AA play with a 10-2 mark and carried a 19-9 overall record into the Tuesday, Feb. 14 regular season final game at home against old rival Jackson County.

The Lady Wildcats will enter the District 7-AA Tournament at Tennessee Tech as the number 2 seed. LA's first game of the tournament will be at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17.

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