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Archives 02-22-2006

Sports

Cats close regular season with win
Lady Cats play in 7-AA Tournament



Cats close regular season with win

Leah Thomas/OCN Sports
Justin Monday goes up for 2 of his 17 points against Jackson County on Senior Night.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
Senior Night at Livingston Academy on Tuesday, Feb. 14 was an opportunity to recognize players and parents of graduating players, but it was also a time to reflect on careers that will be moving on.

"It's kinda sad and it's kinda nice as well," Wilson Cates smiled when it was all over. "We were pretty emotional before the game, but we got it all together before we played. And there'll be a time to cry when the season finally does come to an end. But right now, it's a time to remember things we accomplished while we were here."

For Cates, his most memorable time wasn't a one-shot deal; it was an accumulation of events over several years.

"The thing I will remember most is the 23 wins here over the past two years,” the Princeton-bound senior recalled. “That's pretty amazing when you think about it. We only lost one district game here in two years, and I'll remember that."

For Tyler Livingston, it was a big win over Cookeville.

"To beat Cookeville anywhere is pretty impressive for us," Livingston recalled, "but we did it here back earlier in the year, and that was a very big win (55-53) for us.

"Other than that, it's hard to think of a 'big' memory since there are so many. It was fun playing here at Livingston Academy, and when it's all over I'll remember my teammates most of all, I guess."

Tyler Smith just decided that this was not the final game at home for the Wildcats.

"Winning tonight (70-48 over Jackson County) was a good way to go out, but hey, if we keep on winning in the district and region tournaments, we will be back here for the sub-state," Smith explained.

Brandon Matthews recalled, "All I can remember is playing ball with all my friends. That was so much fun simply because my teammates were such great guys. I wish it was starting all over tomorrow, but I know it isn't and we will have to move on."

And for Justin Monday, the previous Friday night might just have been the most memorable night of his career.

"They were getting the ball inside to me tonight, and also I was able to put back some rebounds," Monday explained. "You get on a roll like that and it all seems like we are at practice and doing what we are suppose to be doing.

"I got to play a lot this year, and that was memorable for me. I played behind Matt (Reeder) for several years, but this year, it was my turn and I've certainly enjoyed it."

Lance Ruble, the other senior on the team, laughed before the game that it was hard to believe this was going to be the final home game.

"It doesn't seem like this is the last one," Ruble said before the contest. "I guess what they say about time flying is true. It seems like only yesterday I was a freshman, and now this is the last home game. I've really enjoyed it though, and if we just keep on winning, we may be back here one more time."

For the seniors, it was an emotional night, but they shook off the emotions quickly and did away with Jackson County in fine fashion.

Matthews hit his traditional 3-point shot to get things rolling, and Monday followed with two baskets in the lane. Smith and Matthews finished off the first 8 minutes with long 3-pointers, and at the end of the first period, Livingston Academy was out to a 20-12 advantage.

Cates opened the second frame with a driving 2-pointer, and again Smith and Matthews connected on 3-pointers as the Wildcats simply put the game away.

More impressive than the offense in the second period, was LA's defense as the Wildcats allowed Jackson County only 2 points during the period. LA led 39-14 at the half.

So consistent was the Wildcats' attack, both offensively and defensively, that in the early going of the fourth frame, the most glaring problems for the home team was the inability to get the ball in the hole. LA missed 11 straight shots at the basket to open the period.

Assistant Coach Dusty Whitaker said, "I don't really know what happened there. We were moving along so nicely, then all of a sudden we couldn't put the ball in the hole no matter how hard we tried. All of those shots were in close, and it just wouldn't go down.

"We had a big lead and maybe we just lost our focus for a minute there.

"But it was a good win for us," Whitaker added. "This is the first time these seniors have won their final home game, so it will mean a lot to them."

Monday and Matthews each had 17 points to pace the Wildcats, while Smith added 14, Ruble put in 9, and Livingston had 8.

Livingston Academy ended the regular season with an impressive 21-8 record and a perfect 12-0 mark in District 7-AA play.

Up next for the Wildcats was the District 7-AA Tournament at Tennessee Tech's Hooper Eblen Center, where LA was scheduled to play Macon County at 6:30 p.m. The Wildcats, by virtue of winning the regular season title, received a bye in the opening round.

Championship and consolation games in both boys and girls competition will conclude Friday, Feb. 24. The Wildcats will automatically advance to the regional tournament next week.

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Lady Cats play in 7-AA Tournament

Leah Thomas/OCN Sports
Senior Megan Brown extends for a shot against Jackson County in Livingston Academy’s 58-55 Senior Night win over the Lady Blue Devils to close out the regular season.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
Before the Lady Wildcats could reach the District 7-AA Tournament, a little unfinished business had to be attended to.

In the final game of the regular season, Livingston Academy hosted old rival Jackson County. Over the years, Jackson has been a thorn in the side of the Lady Cats, but this time things would be different.

In a game that stayed close throughout, LA came off with a hard fought 58-55 win on Senior Night on Tuesday, Feb. 14 at the Livingston Academy gym.

Senior Haley Mullins said, "That was a good way to end a career here in Livingston. Jackson County has been hard on us over the years, and winning tonight will really mean something to us. They aren't in our region anymore, but they are still one of our biggest rivals.

"We played well, and I thought we stayed with our game plan all night," Mullins continued. "We got good defense all night from everybody, and our scoring was very balanced."

Taking a 12-10 lead in the first period, the Lady Cats used Mullins' inside shooting plus good work from Megan Brown and Alison West. Rebekah Jackson hit a 3-pointer late in the frame to put Livingston on top.

Mallie Stephens hit two straight baskets to open the second period, then added a long 3-pointer to put the home team ahead 23-14.

But Jackson County battled back, and at the end of the frame Livingston led by only 3 at 29-26.

In the third period, Ashley Matthews hit a three with 2 minutes left, and Jada Ledbetter added two more long range threes to give Livingston Academy a 49-45 lead going into the final 8 minutes.

Megan Brown said, "Those three late in the third period were critical. Jackson County always plays us tough, and they had a little momentum going until Ashley and Jada kinda took the air out of their charge."

A pair of baskets down the stretch by Mullins were also critical. Two clutch free throws by West with 25 seconds left sealed the victory.

On the night, Ledbetter had 14 points to lead all scorers, while Mullins added 12, Matthews and Stephens each dropped in 9, and West had 7.

On Friday, Feb. 17, the Lady Cats travelled to Tennessee Tech to take on DeKalb County in the opening round of the district tournament.

As expected, Livingston Academy had little trouble picking up their 21st win of the season against only 9 losses as they rolled over DeKalb 70-29, handing the Lady Tigers their 58th straight district loss.

Ashley Matthews said, "About all you can say is we won. We did put a lot of points on the board, but overall, we really didn't play all that well.

"Part of the problem was getting used to the gym (Hooper Eblen Center), and the other thing was we really didn't stay focused after the first period.

"We will have to play better if we expect to win the tournament."

The Lady Cats raced out to a 21-4 first period lead and were on top 31-14 at intermission. By the end of the third period, LA was ahead 48-23, and went on to outscore DeKalb 22-6 in the final 8 minutes.

But there was good news. LA's bench came on and played well most of the final period, with Kendra Kilgore collecting 6 points, and Chelsea Carr and Holli Dailey both playing extremely well.

Jackson said, "It was a little strange playing there. It's the basket or something. You really have to focus more here I guess because of the background."

Matthews led all scorers with three 3-pointers and a total of 22 points, while West added 10, Brown 8, Mullins 5, and Brittany McCoin and Stephens hitting for 4 each.

Before the game, it was announced that Matthews and Mullins were named to the first team of the District 7-AA All-District team. West, Stephens, and Ledbetter made the third team, with Brown getting honorable mention. Chelsea Carr was named to the All-Freshman Team, and West was named to the All-Defensive Team.

Way back in December when the basketball season was just getting underway, it was considered automatic that LA's girls and Upperman's girls would play each other three times: twice in the regular season and once on the final day of the District 7-AA Tournament.

And that's exactly what will happen Friday, Feb. 24 when the Lady Wildcats and the Lady Bees tangle in the rubber match of their three contests this season. The rest of the story is that neither will be playing for the tournament championship.

That distinction will go to York Institute and Smith County as they both won Monday night, Feb. 20 against the two teams that finished number 1 and 2 in the regular season.

In the first game of Monday night's semifinals, Smith County played perhaps its best game of the season and upended the regular season champion Lady Bees 44-40.

After watching Upperman fall, the Lady Wildcats had to figure this might just be a night of upsets and they had better play their best to avoid playing Friday afternoon instead of Friday night. After all, York and LA had met twice in the regular season and each won on its home court.This time the court was neutral.

This time York came away with a 44-41 decision.

Ashley Matthews played one of her better games, pouring in 22 points and leading all scorers, including York's Brandi Brown, perhaps the district's finest player, but Matthews couldn't do it all by herself. On defense, she got some good help, but on offense, she had very little.

After Matthews' 22, no other Livingston player came close to double figures. Alison West, Mallie Stephens, and Jada Ledbetter each had 4 points, while Haley Mullins and Megan Brown could only account for 2 each.

Livingston shot 53% in the first period and led 13-10 at the end of the quarter on a last second 3-point shot by Matthews. In the second frame, the shooting percentage dropped to 32 and the Lady Cats were down by 2 at 19-21.

After scoring only 6 points in the second period, Livingston continued poor shooting and tallied only 7 in the third frame. A 15-14 advantage in the final frame just wasn't enough to overcome the Lady Dragons' lead, that at one point in the period was 7.

As usual, Brandi Brown led the Lady Dragons in scoring with 20 markers, but it was the deliberate pace of York all night that spelled the difference in victory and defeat. When LA did manage a steal or a rebound, seldom did it result in points on the other end of the floor.

So when they meet for the third time this season, it will be at 4 p.m. for the third and fourth spots in next week's regional tournament to be held at White House starting Monday, Feb. 27.

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