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Archives 03-08-2006

Sports

Cats go down in first round
Lady Cats miss State Tournament on a technicality
LA tennis up and running this week



Cats go down in first round

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
Two things happened to the Livingston Academy Basketball Wildcats on their way to the state playoff last week, and neither were good.

After breezing through the District 7-AA Tournament in Cookeville, Livingston advanced to the regional tournament at White House as the number one seeded team. The opponent in the first round of the regionals would be the number four seeded team from District 8-AA.

In most cases, the number one would beat the number four, but in the case of District 8, Goodpasture, the regular season champs, had trouble in its district playoffs and ended up in fourth place. With a record of 23-6, the Cougars were much better than fourth.

"Goodpasture is much better than fourth," LA Coach Richard Melton stated last week. "They are big and they have some outstanding shooters. They would not be my pick to play in the first round, but that's who we face and we will go and do our best."

So playing Goodpasture was the first misfortune of the week for the Wildcats. The second bit of bad news proved devastating. Senior team leader Wilson Cates, the district tournament's Most Valuable Player, came down with the flu and could not make the trip to the opening round of the Region 4-AA event.

"Any time you lose a player of Wilson's importance, you are in trouble," Coach Melton stated. "It was just one of those things that could not be avoided. Knowing Wilson, I believe he would have been out there giving it his all, even if he couldn't stand up. But he couldn't, so we tried to use our depth and it just didn't happen."

The results of two bad breaks in one week saw Goodpasture roll past the Wildcats 71-53 on Tuesday night, Feb. 28, and brought Livingston's fine season to an abrupt end with a record of 23-9.

But the final score was not indicative of the way most of the game was played. Had it not been for a Cougar eruption late in the game, the final score would have been much closer.

"Despite their big height advantage, I thought we did quite well most of the game," Coach Melton continued. "We got our share of the rebounds, but we missed a lot of shots and we couldn't stop (C.J.) Davis or (Chris) Buchanan. Those two alone scored about 60 points (actually 65)."

Davis ended the game with 34 and Buchanan dropped in 31, and the Wildcats appeared to have no answer to stopping either.

"We missed Wilson's defensive play tremendously there," the LA coach added. "I'm not sure it would have made a difference, but I believe it would have."

Livingston fell behind quickly at the beginning of the contest, but managed to retake the lead midway through the first period on some vital baskets from Justin Monday, Brandon Matthews, and Lance Ruble. A basket at the buzzer by Chase Dunn gave the Wildcats a 14-13 lead going into the second frame.

Then late in the second period the Cougars went on an 8-0 run, and led by 6 at 28-22 at the end of the first half.

Late in the third frame, the Wildcats clawed back to within a point at 41-42, but trailed by 4, at 41-45, entering the final 8 minutes.

Buchanan and Davis ripped the Wildcats apart in the final frame. Outscoring Livingston Academy 26-12 by midway of the period, the outcome wasn't in doubt.

Monday led LA in scoring as the senior center hit for 16 points. Tyson Stover followed with 9, while Ruble and Tyler Smith each contributed 8. Dunn and Matthews each had 6.

"It's disappointing to lose, especially when you get this far and have had a fine season like we had," Coach Melton concluded. "This was my first year as head coach, and this group came in and did everything I asked them to do.

"I will always be proud of their effort and will miss the seniors that will graduate. We'll go back now and start getting ready for next year.

"We will lose our five starters this year, and they certainly can be proud of the record they posted while they were here. Two straight district titles and I don't know how many victories, but there were a lot.

"The good news is we have some fine young players coming up and they will fit right into our program and carry on the tradition of good basketball here at Livingston Academy."

 

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Lady Cats miss State Tournament on a technicality

Mac McLeod/OCN Sports
LA junior Ashley Matthews looks to make a move.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
When somebody goes back years from now and takes a look at the 2005-2006 Livingston Academy girls basketball season, it should be noted that two questionable technical fouls during playoff time may well have spelled the difference between a very successful season and one that could have easily been another state championship.

In a week that saw the Lady Wildcats play under extreme pressure in four critical games, two wins and two losses ended the season with a 22-13 record that included two last-second heartbreaking defeats.

"It was a very critical week," explained offensive star Ashley Matthews. "We had to beat DCA last Monday or our season was over. Then we had to defeat Smith County in the semifinals of the regional tournament or our season was over, and we had to beat McMinn Central to advance to the state championship.

"In every game, we had to win. The game with York only determined where we would play, so it wasn't as critical. It was big, but even if we lost we got to play again.

"That is a very tough week, and looking back at it, we did okay. Naturally, we felt we should have won, especially the York game, but this team has nothing to be ashamed of. We played hard, didn't leave anything on the floor, and now it's time to start getting ready for next year."

With a 66-68 defeat at McMinn Central on Saturday night, March 4, the curtain fell on the Lady Wildcats' season, but with only two seniors graduating from the team, the future looks bright again next year.

LA Coach Lesley Smith said, "We didn't play all that well Saturday night, and I think we let them get to us early in the game.

"McMinn is a good team, but playing at their place was worth about 10 points to them as well. We were a little nervous and felt the pressure early, but we came back from 14 points down in the first half, and took the lead late in the game.

"Your goal when you start any season is, naturally, win the state championship. We didn't do that, but when you consider about 100 teams start out in double-A ball each fall, and we got to the final 16, that puts us in a pretty special group," the coach continued.

"We lose Haley Mullins and Megan Brown to graduation. Their careers are over, but everybody needs to remember them because they won 101 games, went to three sub-states, and were on the state championship team. That's pretty remarkable, and we will miss both of those fine players next year."

To reach Saturday's sub-state game, the Lady Cats slid past DCA on Monday night, 61-57, then rolled over Smith County in the regional tournament, 62-49. A last-second shot by York's superstar, Brandi Brown, saw the Lady Cats drop a devastating 49-51 decision in the Region 4-AA championship game.

Matthews said, "We should not have lost to York. We were up by 10 at the half and were playing well.

"Brandi is an awesome player, and she just set her mind to it and brought her team back. You have to give her credit, but the technical was a critical call late in the game. It was a very questionable call because nothing was said out of the ordinary, but the official called it, and it may have changed our momentum.

"We were ahead by 2 and had the ball, and suddenly, they get the ball, make two free throws and then score on that last shot."

LA did play well against York. The Lady Cats led almost the entire game, but Brown's 35 points were just too much to overcome. The York sensation had all of her team's 11 points in the second period, and all 13 in the final period.

Livingston Academy was paced by Matthews with 16, but it was the strong play by Mullins, mainly on defense, that almost produced the victory. Mullins had 12 points in the game, and 4 blocked shots. Mallie Stephens added 11 for Livingston.

Matthews and Stephens were named to the All-Regional team.

In the Wednesday, March 1 game against Smith County, the Lady Cats took a 17-13 lead in the first period and never looked back. Matthews had the hot hand, shooting for 28 points, while Stephens added 17, Mullins hit for 6, Alison West for 5, and Megan Brown put in 4.

Late in the game, in hopes of getting a missed free throw, Smith County sent Matthews to the line 17 times and she hit 17 of 21.

In Saturday's sub-state game, Livingston fell behind 13-22 in the first period on some outstanding long-range shooting by the Lady Chargers, then settled down to match scores of 19 and 22 in the second and third frames.

But as the Lady Cats started to make a charge back midway through the third, a technical foul was called when LA made a substitution and the player's number was not correct in the official book. At the time, LA was within 5, but the two free throws and a basket seconds later after the possession spread the margin back to 9.

"It was on the official book," Coach Smith later explained. "I will assume the responsibility for not checking the numbers in the book closer. It was something we simply overlooked. I'm not sure it led to the loss, but those 4 points now sure are big."

Then in the final period, the Lady Cats finally took over and brought quiet to the huge hometown crowd. Although Mullins fouled out early in the period, Brown and Matthews narrowed the gap with consecutive baskets, then Matthews completed a 3-point play at the 4:42 mark to tie the game at 57.

After several back and forth baskets, LA clawed to the top for the first time of the night on a drive by Matthews with 2:15 remaining to give the Lady Cats a 62-61 lead. Matthews again put her team on top with 35 second to go at 66-65.

But a basket and free throw by Kylie Lambert with only 6 seconds remaining determined the outcome.

Matthews ended the game with 35 points, while Stephens had 14, Brown 8, Jada Ledbetter 5, and West and Mullins with 2 each.

"There were some very bright spots for us, even though we didn't reach the state tournament," Coach Smith pointed out. "In that last week, we got very consistent.

"A lot of times through the season, we just didn't know which team was going to show up. But when it really counted, we played very well, and that's something we can build on for next year.

"Mallie (Stephens) really got to playing well late in the season, and on defense Alison (West) was strong almost all year. Ashley (Matthews) is the shooter, and she really works hard at it. Jada (Ledbetter) has come a long way, and will step right in next year and really make a big contribution.

"We have some outstanding freshmen moving up, so the future looks bright.

"This season is over, but it was a good one. If you think back to last year, we were fifth in the region and lost in the first round. That shows just how dedicated this group was, and they can be very proud of their season," Coach Smith concluded.

As for Matthews and her teammates, the season will crank up in about two weeks when AAU ball starts.

"I can't wait to get started," the sharpshooting junior said. "I guess some people think we might get tired of the game after playing so much, but that's not the case. The next two weeks will be the longest of the season because we won't be playing."

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LA tennis up and running this week

Leah Thomas, OCN Sports
Livingston Academy's tennis teams are getting back into the swing of things.

With two new coaches, Lori Thomas and Bobbye Moore, the teams are looking forward to a great season.

Girls tennis is not going to be in too bad of shape this year. The team lost only one senior from last year and has four players returning. The team has gained four new freshmen.

Returning from last year are senior Leah Thomas, juniors Danielle Ray and Lacy Carmack, and sophomore Rhiannon Voss. New to the team are freshmen Jamie Kelly, Jallysa Jones, Chelsea Poston, and Sky Hastings.

The boys tennis team has three players returning from last year and four new players.

Returning from last year are seniors David Johnson and Brad Ledbetter and junior Randy Boswell. The four new players are senior Devin Fletcher, junior Robert Holt, sophomore Cody Penticuff, and freshman Michael Henry.

The girls season will start with a scrimmage on Thursday, March 9 at 3:30 p.m. at home against Macon County.

The boys season started yesterday, March 7, with a scrimmage against Macon County at home.

 

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