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Archives 03-01-2006

Sports

Cats take tournament championship
Lady Cats play in 7-AA Tournament
Lady Cats defeat DCA in Region 4-AA Tourney


Cats take tournament championship

Leah Thomas/OCN Sports
Justin Monday goes up for 2 of his game-leading 22 points in the Wildcats' District 7-AA Tournament championship win over Upperman's Bees on Friday, Feb. 24.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
After breezing through District 7-AA this past season with a perfect 12-0 record, it was not much of a shock when it was announced originally that Livingston Academy's Wilson Cates was named the District Most Valuable Player and Coach Richard Melton was tabbed as Coach of the Year.

Several days later, it was announced that the votes from one of the schools hadn't been counted and the MVP award should have gone to Macon County's Colby Stinson, not Cates.

Two days after that shocker, the district came back and said that Melton was not the top coach and the award should have gone to DeKalb County's Linus Martin. While Melton had guided his Wildcats to a 22-8 overall record and a perfect 12-0 record in the district, Martin guided DeKalb to a mediocre 12-15 overall record and an 8-4 district mark.

The Wildcats decided to just settle the matter once and for all with an impressive romp through last week's district tournament in Cookeville.

In their first game, LA destroyed Stinson and his Macon County teammates 88-43, then pounced on Upperman 65-49 for the championship on Friday night, Feb. 24.

"If 80-40 doesn't send a message, then maybe they just don't get it at all," a happy Tyler Livingston said after Tuesday's mauling of the Tigers. "I think this team had a little something to prove tonight, and we did it."

It didn't take long to prove the point either. Cates scored the game's opening bucket, then Tyson Stover hit a 3-pointer followed by a couple three's from Brandon Matthews and a fourth by Tyler Smith, and the Cats were off and running to a 25-14 first period lead.

Before the half ended, the officials could have thrown a flag for 'piling on'. Smith opened the second period with a three, and the Cats raced off a 12-4 run and were firmly in control, 47-22, by the intermission.

But the assassination was not yet complete. By the mid-point of the third period, the Wildcats had scored 17 points while holding the Tigers to only 2, and were ahead by 40 at 64-24 with just a little over 3 minutes to play. During the period, Stover had a 3-pointer as did Cates, and the ‘message' the Wildcats were sending was being well received all over the Tennessee Tech gym.

To make sure the word didn't fall on deaf ears, Coach Melton kept his first team on the floor until a little over 3 minutes remained in the game and the Cats were up by 41 at 80-39.

"I would have to say they played with ‘inspired determination'," Coach Melton said after the game. "It was one of the best games we have played all season, and it came at a very good time.

"We need to be reaching our peak now, and tonight we were very close to the top."

Cates led all scorers, with 16 points, followed by teammates Chase Dunn with 14, Tyler Smith with 13, Matthews with 12, and Justin Monday with 11.

Stinson had 11 points for Macon County.

Then to make sure there was no doubt in anybody's mind of who had the best player, the best coach, and certainly the best team, the Wildcats returned to the floor in Friday's championship game against Upperman and posted a 16-point victory.

After the game, Monday, Matthews, and Cates were named to the District 7-AA All-Tournament team, and Cates received the tournament Most Valuable Player award.

"Actually, I think that award should have gone to Justin," the always modest Cates said after the game. "He had a great game tonight, and also on Tuesday. I tried to give him the plaque, but he wouldn't take it. But I'm going to try again.

"But this wasn't about any one individual, it was about a team," Cates continued. "We came here with a mission to get the job done, and we accomplished that mission. Now our mission is go and win the region next week. All the other stuff will come out in the wash."

Cates also gave his teammates a pep talk after the game.

"We can't win the state championship until we all believe we can," Cates told the team in the dressing room after the game.

"When we won the football championship we made sure everybody knew that there was no other option other than believing we could win.

"If anybody doesn't believe then we won't win. Winning the state title was our goal at the beginning of the season, and now we are closer to that goal.

"We have to set our minds to getting it done then go out and do it."

Getting to the next step got off to a good start in Friday's game. Matthews raced in from the left side and made a reverse layup to bring the crowd to its feet. Monday then hit four straight free throws to added to his 10-point first period performance, and the Cats were off to a 16-7 lead.

Monday opened the second period with a drive in the lane, and Matthews hit an NBA 3-pointer. Later in the period, he hit another from downtown Cookeville, and by the half, Livingston had doubled the score, 34-17.

Then in the third period, things went a little cold for the Wildcats, and at one point the margin had been cut to 12. Monday later pointed out, "We didn't play all that well in the third period. Our shot selection wasn't all that good, and we got a little impatient with our shooting. But we settled down in the fourth period, and it all worked out okay."

After leading 47-35 to start the final period, the Wildcats went on a 6-point spree led by Dunn, Cates, and Monday, and with a little over 5 minutes remaining, the game was safely in hand.

Coach Melton told the squad after the game, "I am real proud of this team. We forced some shots there in the third period, which didn't make us look all that good, but good teams overcome that, and we did tonight.

"Now we are headed for the regional tournament, and it gets tougher from here on out. We can't afford to overlook anybody.

"Unless you want this (the district title) to be good enough, we are going to have to really focus. I think we have a good shot this year, maybe more than last year simply because the region has changed.

"Rest up this weekend and be ready to play Tuesday," Melton concluded.

In the title game, Monday led all scorers with 22 points. Dunn added 17 for the Wildcats, and Matthews hit for 12.

Cates said, "This was a good week for us. This was not about all-team or all-district or most valuable player. Nobody will remember those things. What they will remember is we were district champions, and that's what team sports are all about.

"By the way, this was our second district championship in a row. We'll certainly remember that."

With a 23-8 overall record, the Wildcats were scheduled to face Goodpasture on Tuesday night, Feb. 28 in the opening round of the Region 4-AA tournament held at White House.

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Lady Cats fall to 4th in 7-AA Tournament

Leah Thomas/OCN Sports
Livingston Academy's Alison West takes a long shot in Friday's tournament game.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
When the District 7-AA basketball tournament got underway last week in Cookeville, the Livingston Academy girls had high hopes of winning the event and moving on to the regional tournament in White House this week as the number one seed. At worst, they figured, they would be number two.

In reality, the Lady Cats will venture west this week as the district's number four seeded team.

After Friday night's 59-65 consolation game loss to Upperman, LA senior center Haley Mullins said, "We really felt good about our chances when the tournament started last week. Going into the tournament we had only two district losses all season, one being to Upperman and one to York, and if we played our best we could beat either.

"We didn't play our best by a long way, and now we have to get it back together. Hopefully, we have our worst games behind us."

Mullins' explanation was pretty much right on the money. With the exception of junior Ashley Matthews, the Lady Cats not only didn't play their best, they perhaps played their worst ball of the season and fell to York in the second round of the event 41-44, then came back Friday night to be handed a very disappointing loss to Upperman.

Against York Institute on Wednesday night, Feb. 22, Matthews did all she could to try to boost her teammates to the championship game with a 22-point outburst, but she didn't get any help in the scoring department. Her 22 points were over half of the total output by the Lady Cats, and no other LA player came close to double figure scoring. Alison West, Mallie Stephens, and Jada Ledbetter each had 4 points apiece in the loss.

Lady Cats Coach Lesley Smith said, "Defensively, we didn't play all that poorly. We held York to 44 points and Brandi Brown (York's leading scorer) only got 20. When you can hold Brandi to 20 and the entire team to 44, you should have a chance to win, but we just didn't shoot well, didn't take good percentage shots, and we missed too many easy shots and foul shots."

While LA was falling to York in the second round, Upperman, the regular season champs, were also having a tough time and dropped their match to Smith County. That set up Friday's games with York facing Smith for the tournament championship and Livingston squaring off against Upperman. The four teams were battling for seeds in this week's regional tournament.

To make matters worse for the Lady Wildcats, Matthews injured her left ankle in practice and was heavily taped for Friday's matchup.

"It hurts, that's for sure," Matthews said before the game. "I'm going to pretend that it's okay and maybe I can contribute. I'll do my best."

Matthews did her part, but as in the previous game, she didn't get much help offensively.

Playing in obvious pain, the junior sharpshooter poured in 10 points in the first half and 17 more in the second half, but her game high 27 points just couldn't hold back the balanced attack of the Lady Bees.

"We're very disappointed about how things turned out,” Matthews said as she was having ice applied to the ankle after the defeat. My ankle really hurts, but losing hurts even more. But we'll just have to play through this and get ready for next week."

Two weeks ago in the regular season, LA fell behind 3-16 at Baxter, then outplayed the Lady Bees for the next three periods to drop a close 44-49 decision. This time the Lady Cats jumped out to a 14-8 first period lead and trailed by only 1 at the intermission, at 21-22.

At the end of the third period, it was still a 1-point Upperman lead at 40-39, and to open the final frame, Stephens hit a pair of free throws to give LA a 41-40 lead.Then Megan Simmons hit three straight 3-pointers to put Upperman on top to stay.

Stephens would end the night with 13 points, but as in the loss to York, the remainder of the team just couldn't put any points on the board. Ledbetter had 7, Mullins hit for 6, and West had 3.

Mullins said, "With Ashley hurt we are really going to have to step up and put some points on the board if we expect to continue playing. Hopefully, we are saving our best games for the regionals. It's not that we can't do it; it's now we're going to have to do it."

Matthews scored 71 points in three games for the Lady Cats and was the only Livingston Academy player named to the All-Tournament team.

In the title game, Smith County and York Institute put on one of the tournament's most memorable games, with York, paced by Molly Eacret's 21 points, coming from behind late in the game to take a 50-47 decision.

Smith County held an 18-15 lead at the end of the first period, but a strong defense by York in the second frame allowed the Owlettes only 3 points and gave the Lady Dragons a 26-21 lead at the half.

Smith County outscored York 18-11 in the third period, but once again York did what it had to when it had to, taking a 13-8 advantage in the final period for the championship.

Tara Sleeper led Smith County in scoring with 16 points, while Brandi Brown added 19 for York.

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Lady Cats defeat DCA in Region 4-AA Tourney

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
Using clutch free throw shooting in the fourth period Monday night, Feb. 27 in the opening round of the Region 4-AA Tournament at White House, the Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats rolled past Donelson Christian Academy 61-57, and advanced to the semifinal round Wednesday night against the winner of the Smith County-Goodpasture contest.

Hitting on 15 of 18 attempts from the foul line in the final 8 minutes, the Lady Cats held off a late charge by DCA, who at one point in the period trailed by 13 points.

Going into the opening game of the tournament, Livingston represented District 7-AA from the 4th seed, while DCA was the number one seed from District 8-AA.

In other opening round games Monday night, York Institute played Portland and Upperman took on host White House.

Livingston used the strong inside play of Haley Mullins early in the game to run out to a 15-12 first period lead. Mullins had 6 points, 3 blocked shots, and 4 big rebounds in the opening 8 minutes to set the Lady Cats in the right direction.

By intermission, Livingston had upped the lead to 7 at 28-21. During the first two frames, the Lady Cats had 20 of their 28 points from inside the lane, and had outrebounded DCA 18-8.

Mallie Stephens hit her first points of the game to open the third period and up the lead to 9. Mullins got into foul trouble late in the period and Jada Ledbetter was given the call.

Ledbetter responded with 9 points in the second half to keep the Lady Cats out front.

Also playing one of her best games of the season, Megan Brown dropped in 11 points, but none bigger than two free throws with only 3 seconds remaining in the game after DCA had rallied to within 2 points at 59-57.

Ashley Matthews, who had carried most of the scoring load during last week's district tournament, got help this time, but still managed to come up with 13 points on the night.

Top scoring honors went to Alison West who led the winners with 16 points, 3 of which came at a critical point late in the third period after DCA had pulled to within 6 points at 41-35. West also had a huge night rebounding as the Lady Cats dominated the boards on both ends of the floor.

Lady Wildcats Coach Lesley Smith said, “I told the team before the game that we could win this game. Despite their impressive 28-2 record, the 2 losses had come against teams we had beaten during the regular season (Upperman and David Lipscomb).

"At this stage of the season, you lose and you go home, and although we didn't play well in the district tournament, we knew we were better than fourth, and today's game proved that.

"Now we'll just have to continue playing like we did tonight."

Livingston's record climbed to 22-11 for the season with the win, while DCA ended its season with a 28-3 mark.

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