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Archives 11-15-2006

Sports

Wildcats ready to make district run
Lady Cats set state championship goal
Thompson helping FHU off to winning start
Kalihib Lander runs well in state meet
Thurman helps Bryan in win over Temple


Wildcats ready to make district run

Dewain E. Peek/OCN Sports
Taking time out from a recent practice are Livingston Academy Wildcats basketball team members, front row from left, Seth Kilgore, Antheny Ward, Dylan Ashlock, Brannon McCoin, Justin Schebel, Adam Wilson, middle row, Justin Poston, Greg Walker, Todd Smith, Chase Dunn, Josh Huitt, Kendall Melton, back row, Assistant Coach Larry Jones, Jordan Everley, Will Peterman, T.J. Smith, Deven Ramsey, Jeremy McLearran, Tyson Stover, Ryan Harris, Clint West, and Head Coach Richard Melton.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
Under normal conditions, a basketball coach who graduated five starters off a team that went 23-9 the previous season, won the district championship, and went to the first round of the regional tournament, would be moaning the blues. But things just aren't normal this season at Livingston Academy and Head Coach Richard Melton is chomping at the bit to get this year's edition of the Wildcats on the floor.

Losing Tyler Livingston, Brandon Matthews, Tyler Smith, Lance Ruble, Justin Monday, and Wilson Cates to graduation, Melton gave a parting pat on the back to that team then turned his attention to this year's squad, who he feels could be one of the biggest and perhaps close to the best in a long time at the school.

"We did lose some really fine players last year," Coach Melton pointed out recently. "I don't know right off hand what their combined record here was while they were players, but it was good and we'll miss them as you always do. Those were just good people and fun to be around.

"We are trying to find somebody to step in for Justin, who really came on strong his senior year, and we will always be looking for the leadership that Wilson had."

Early last season, Melton had to start several young players who would not have normally started due to the fact that Cates and Livingston played football, and for five weeks the football team was rolling to the state championship and the basketball team was just so so. But that was not necessarily a bad thing for the Wildcat cagers.

"We lost a lot of games early last year because of that, but at the same time, several freshmen came in and got a lot of real good playing experience, and this year, that will pay off," Coach Melton said. "Todd Smith, a sophomore, and Chase Dunn, a freshman, handled that situation well I thought, and now they aren't first-year players at all. They have game experience."

Dunn, at 5-8, could be the best player in the district, according to Melton, and he will have plenty of help this year inside and out.

"Looking at our team overall, we can go two ways, and that's a good thing," Coach Melton went on. "We can go big and a little slow with Tyson Stover, 6-3, Jeremy McLearran, 6-5, and Deven Ramsey, 6-7, and surround them with Dunn and Smith, both at 5-8, or we can speed the game up with a little smaller lineup, putting in Clint West, 5-10, and Will Peterman, 5-11. We practiced this morning and used both lineups, and I'll tell you one thing, that smaller bunch was like a swarm of bees. It was really fun to watch."

When Melton analyzes his team and the season ahead, he can't help but smile. He feels that the Wildcats this year should be as good as any team in the district, which will include Upperman and DeKalb who should also be contenders.

"We now have the size to match up with just about anybody," the coach pointed out. "Last year we could play with anybody, mainly because of experience, quickness, and good shooting most of the time.

"This year we feel we can get inside and battle with anybody, especially with Ramsey in there. He's 6-7 and about 250 pounds, and that's a big object to move out of there.

"You add McLearran and Stover to that mix and we'll go toe-to-toe with anybody, and Dunn and Smith are both good ball handlers and good shooters.

"Then we can look to West for some pure shooting, and those combinations should be able to go a long way.

"We went to three camps this summer and we played the best teams in the state, 3A, 4A, whatever," Coach Melton said. "Naturally we took some lumps, but I wasn't looking to win those games. I wanted our kids to practice against the best so they could see just where they were and just how good you have to be to compete."

Coach Melton confessed that this year's team is ahead of where last year's team was at the start of the season, but adds that things could change.

"When we hit the floor for real, with crowds in the stands and in places like Upperman or York or Jackson County, it will be different, and for most of our kids this will be a new experience," he said.

"They will have to learn how to handle that pressure, and that's something that only playing there can teach."

And while he can't afford to look past the next game, Melton also has to be excited about the fact that there is only one senior on this year's team (Tyson Stover). With two juniors, nine sophomores, and two freshman on this year's squad, not only does this year's team excite the coach, but the next several years look very promising.

Aside from his starting five or six, the Wildcats will be backed up with sophomores Ryan Harris, 6-0, Josh Huitt, 5-10, Jordan Everley, 6-1, Justin Poston, 5-7, and Greg Walker, 5-10. Kendall Melton, 5-10, and T.J. Smith, 5-11, comprise the freshman class.

"I think that the dominance of District 8 (Livingston plays in District 7) might be over," the coach continued. "They have won the regional tournament pretty handily over the past several years, but our district is coming on strong. Not only are we excited about this year, but looking ahead, we should have a bigger say in what happens in the region, the sub-state, and the state tournament, and that's exciting."

Offensively, the Wildcats should be able to play with anyone this year. Defensively, Melton feels his team will get better with every game and control the game on both ends when they reach the meat of the schedule.

"Ramsey is a big man, and it will be up to him as to how he controls the paint. Nobody should be able to move him if he doesn't want to be moved, on both ends of the floor," Coach Melton said.

"Clint (West) could be our best shooter once he learns he has to shoot. Right now he's a little timid, but when we get into game situations, I think he'll understand he has to take the shot.

"Dunn and Todd (Smith) are getting more aggressive, and the younger players will get more aggressive as they get into the season.

"We want them to be aggressive. We were probably the most aggressive team in the district last year, and maybe some of that rubbed off on these kids. In this game, you need a little mean streak," Coach Melton laughed, "it's being competitive, and you have to have that desire, meanness or competitiveness, whatever you call it, to win."

Livingston Academy will start the season Thursday, Nov. 16 at Antioch, then will play in the Loudon Hall of Fame tournament the following day, and will open home play on Tuesday, Nov. 21 against Pickett County.

"We will play some really good teams early," Coach Melton concluded, "and we'll get beat around some, but I think it will help us tremendously when we get into district play.

"We're ready to get started and really looking forward to the season."

 

 

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Lady Cats set state championship goal

Dewain E. Peek/OCN Sports
Members of the 2006-2007 Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats basketball team are, front row from left, #32 Amber Welch, #40 Alyssa Thompson, #5 Shelby Taylor, middle row, #14, Devin Thompson, #54 Kendria Kilgore, #22 Alissa Sells, #21 Adrian West, #23 Chelsea Carr, #24 Rebekah Jackson, #10 Ashley Matthews, #12 Jada Ledbetter, #33 Brittany McCoin, #11 Brittany Smith, #3 Alison West, and #20 Mallie Stephens.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
When Livingston Academy's girls basketball coach Lesley Smith talks about this year's edition of the Lady Wildcats, she confesses her team will be bigger but faster.

"We lost Haley (Mullins) and Megan (Brown) from last year's team, and that was our height and some of our slowness," Smith realistically explained.

"This year we are bigger, quicker, and have a tremendous amount of experience. Those three things right there will make us a better team."

Last year the Lady Cats posted a 23-13 overall record and lost to McMinn Central in the sub-state tournament by a mere 2 points. With 9 players returning with experience, the sub-state could well be just a stepping stone to a return to Murfreesboro and the state tournament.

"We do have a great group of returning players," Coach Smith continued. "Our seniors include Jada Ledbetter, Ashley Matthews, Brittany McCoin, Mallie Stephens, and Alison West, and all 5 of those players were key in the last several years. They have the experience to go a long way this year."

One thing the Lady Cats have worked hard on over the summer was to try and take so much shooting pressure off Matthews. Last season, opponents that could shut down the high scoring Matthews were usually successful. This year they hope things will change.

"Ashley is a pure shooter, but we have worked hard on getting other players to fill in that position," Coach Smith said. "Other teams figured out quickly that if they could shut her down or even slow her down, they could beat us, and they were right.

"This year we want Ashley not to have to feel like she has to carry the scoring burden, and several players have stepped up. Brittany McCoin may be the best pure shooter on the team, and we'll rely on Jada to be our power. She has worked hard over the summer getting stronger, and she will have to take the game inside. And she can do it if we can keep her out of foul trouble.

Smith said Alison West and Stephens will be on the wings, and that both are much improved over last year.

"Alison is probably our most improved player," Smith continued. "Last season she would take over on occasion, but we wanted her to be more consistent. Over the summer, we worked on her getting 10 or 12 points and 6 or 8 rebounds every game, not just a game here and there.

"Mallie has just gotten smarter and smarter in her shot selection, and she has worked very hard at that.

"Overall, we're big, although we did lose Haley we're much bigger overall, and, hopefully, we can use that advantage over teams that are smaller," Coach Smith said.

Once the coach gets past her starting five, she can look to a very strong bench that includes Shelby Taylor.

"Shelby is a player," the coach pointed out. "She has the best instincts of any freshman I have ever coached. I didn't coach Katrina (Beachboard), so we can't count her. She knows where the ball needs to be. She's not a scoring point guard, but an old fashion type guard that controls the tempo of the game. She can shoot if she has to, and when Shelby and Ashley are in there together, Shelby makes Ashley better."

With the offense pretty much intact, Smith can also point to a defense that will be much better than last year. Speed is much improved from last season, and with a strong bench, the defense can be more aggressive.

"Defense will be a strength, experience will be a strength, and it's obvious we have some fine shooters," Coach Smith went on.

Last year's trip to the sub-state was a little unexpected, but since the Lady Cats did come so close to making the trip to Murfreesboro, the players now have a better understanding of what it will take to get back to the state title.

"Making the state tournament is your goal every year, but realistically, I didn't expect us to get that far last year," Coach Smith said. "This year, it is realistic."

Several keys to making the tournament are completely out of the hands of the Lady Cats, but are important just the same. Brandi Brown is gone at Jackson County, and Smith County graduated its best player. Overall, the district won't be quite as strong as in the past several seasons.

"Upperman will again be extremely strong, and they will be big as always, but overall, the district will be a little weaker, Coach Smith said. "We have a good shot this year if we can stay healthy, and that's always a given.

"And we have strength on the bench. Chelsea Carr and Adrian West are players, and they are a smart group overall. I just love 'em."

A good summer camp program has also helped the squad. Like the boys team, the Lady Cats went to 3 camps and asked to play the best teams at the functions. According to the coach, the team won some and lost some, but the score was never the object. Improving against good and better teams was the goal.

"Our sophomores really had a good summer, and they pushed our seniors and that's good. Last year they were freshmen, and were a little timid in pushing upperclassmen, but that's not the case this year. They are good and they want to play, and that will give us a big advantage," Smith pointed out.

Aside from the starters and the more experienced underclassmen, the Lady Cats can go to the bench at any time with senior Rebekah Jackson, sophomores Kendria Kilgore, Alissa Sells, and Devin Thompson, along with freshmen Amber Welch and Alyssa Thompson.

"Right now, everybody is working hard, but the closer we get to the start of the season, the more exciting it gets," Coach Smith said. "I guess we're a little tired of playing ourselves, and we're ready for some games that will count."

Livingston Academy's Lady Cats will open the season Thursday, Nov. 16 at Antioch, then will play in the Loudon Hall of Fame tournament the following day, and will open home play on Tuesday, Nov. 21 against Pickett County.

 

Thompson helping FHU off to winning start

Freed-Hardeman University defeated Reinhardt College 67-57 in the LionBacker Classic Tournament at the FHU Sports Center in Henderson on November 3.

In the win, Megan Thompson, of Overton County, hit 2 free throws, pulled down 2 rebounds, and had 3 steals.

The Freed-Hardeman University Lady Lions came out strong in their second game of the Classic, defeating the visiting Loyola Lady Wolfpack the following day by the score of 96-64.

FHU controlled the game from the opening tip, knocking down shots and applying tough defensive pressure to the Lady Wolfpack guards. The hot shooting continued through most of the first half as the Lady Lions went 5 for 12 from behind the arc.

FHU led by as much as 21 with 3 minutes to play in the first half on a 3-pointer by junior guard Thompson.

Thompson finished the game with 18 points, including five 3-pointers and a free throw. She made 2 assists, pulled down 2 rebounds, and had a steal in the win.

The Lady Lions took on Harris-Stowe State College on Saturday, Nov. 11 and won 93-69.

Thompson scored 9 points, all from 3-pointers. She made 9 assists, pulled down 2 rebounds, and had a steal.

 

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Kalihib Lander runs well in state meet

Livingston Academy's Kalihib Lander ran well in the TSSAA State Cross Country Meet held Saturday, Nov. 4 at Steeplechase in Nashville.

Lander finished 40th out of a field of around 225 runners. The LA cross country runner crossed the finish line with a time of 18:18.

 

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Thurman helps Bryan in win over Temple

Bryan College's Lady Lions defeated Chattanooga-Temple 76-62 in the basketball season opener.

Kellie Thurman of Overton County scored 21 points and pulled down 13 rebounds in the win, and also made 4 steals.

 

 

 

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