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Archives 12-12-2007

Sports

Cats pull out victory over Dragons, tame Lions
Lady Cats defeat York, Cannon County
LMS, Pickett County square off in basketball action
All-American farewell

Cats pull out victory over Dragons, tame Lions

Mac McLeod/OCN Sports
T.J. Smith battles for 2 points against a York Dragon defender.

Mac McLeod/OCN Sports
LA Wildcats Basketball Coach Richard Melton presents a commemorative basketball to Chase Dunn in recognition of Dunn’s reaching the 1,000-point mark on February 21, 2007.

By MAC McLEOD,
OCN Sports

His brother has a state championship ring and Livingston Academy’s Will Peterman wants one too. If he and his Wildcat teammates continue at their current pace, he will at least have a shot at it.

“Jake got his ring in football a few years ago and I sure would like to get another one in the family, “ the 6-1 junior smiled Friday night after he helped pace his team to its seventh win of the young season. “The entire team played well tonight and I just felt good about starting. It was a lot better tonight than Tuesday, but if you play long enough, you’ll have games like Friday.”

Peterman was referring to a convincing 70-38 win over an inexperienced Cannon County team Friday and a hard fought, sometimes uncertain win over a tough York team, 67-51 on Tuesday.

As things turned out for the week, it was a good one for the Wildcats, but there were moments when things didn’t go smoothly and coach Richard Melton was the first to point it out.

Shortly after the win over York on Tuesday, Melton emerged from the dressing room more than a little upset over the way his team had played.

“You really don’t want to know what I think,” the coach started out.
A few minutes later after collecting his thoughts, he continued. “After the way we played at Macon County on Friday, I thought we were getting it all together, but tonight it looked like we had forgotten everything we had learned. Thankfully, we are deep enough to overcome weak performances and tonight, our bench really pulled us out. “

Despite the fact that Chase Dunn had a season high 34 points and smooth shooting T.J. Smith added a career high 20 more, it was a struggle until late in the game when experience finally frustrated the visiting Tigers. The final margin of 16 points didn’t come close to indicating just how close the game was most of the night.

In the opening quarter, Smith hit 9 of LA’s eleven points and when the buzzer ended the frame, the Wildcats held a slim, 11-10 lead. And things didn’t get much better in the second period as the visitors controlled the inside, both offensively and defensively.

Of the 20 points the Cats put on the boards in the second frame, Dunn had eleven of them and his second three point shot of the quarter as time was running out was the difference between leading and trailing at intermission.

“We just didn’t work hard in that first half,” Melton pointed out. “Two guys (Dunn and Smith) had good games, but we played horrible. York isn’t a bad team, but I just don’t think we were mentally prepared to play. We were fortunate to have a strong bench.”

At the end of the third period, Livingston led by five, 51-46, then late in the final period, the Wildcats’ depth started to show and the defense finally kicked in. In the period, LA scored 16 points while holding York to only five.

“I felt good right from the start,” Smith explained. “When the first shot fell, then I just started shooting more and the more they went in, the more I wanted to shoot. You have those kind of nights and I guess tonight, I had one.”

For Dunn, it was another night of pure hustle. His 34 points came from a collection of free throws, field goals and three pointers. Before the game, he was presented a ball for surpassing the 1,000 point mark of his career and currently he’s at 1,211.

When the Wildcats took to the floor on Friday night against Cannon County, several starters were on the bench, but as Melton pointed out after the game, it had nothing to do with the Tuesday game .

“I wanted to use a quicker lineup Friday to see how good we could put pressure on the ball,” he explained. “I thought it worked well. We got to play a lot of players tonight and that was good and I thought Peterman really had a great game. I was pleased with the play of every player tonight and that was super when Kailen (Melton) hit that three pointer in the fourth quarter.”

Using a smaller, but much faster starting five, the Wildcats led by six at the end of the first period, but it was necessarily the score that indicated the pace of the game. Peterman and his teammates put pressure on the ball and several times the Tigers couldn’t even get it over the half court line before it was stolen.

And when the offense and defense clicked together, things got out of hand.
In the second period the offense put 21 points on the boards and the defense held Cannon County to a mere four points. It may have been the best eight minutes of the season thus far.

Only some late game three pointers for the Tigers kept the game from getting totally out of hand. Livingston outscored the visitors 16-12 in the third period and 23-12 in the final quarter.

“Who ever got on the floor played well,” Melton went on. “Todd (Smith) and Clint (West) had real good efforts, then Jeremy (McLearran) and Deven (Ramsey) did much better inside. Adam (Wilson) played well and Justin (Poston) really played hard as did Kendall (Melton) and Jake (Huitt) and Hayden (Hill). It was a chance to play everybody and we did and more importantly, they got to play when it counted. I thought we played well as a team and it was good to see Clint (West) make some points. He can shoot and we know it. Tonight he did and he made some points.”

West had 12 points on the night and Dunn dropped in 14. T.J. Smith had nine while Ramsey and Todd Smith connected for five each and McLearran was good for six.

With a 7-2 overall record and perfect 3-0 mark in the district, the Wildcats will hit the road Tuesday night for another important league game at DeKalb County before hitting the road for Christmas tournaments the following two weeks. Following the DeKalb game, the LA boys will hit the hardwood Thursday, December 20th in the Battle for the State Tournament at Lipscomb University. First round foe will be Brentwood Academy at 8:30 p.m. The event will run for three days.

After Christmas, the LA boys will play Thursday, December 27 against Creekside (GA) at 5:30 p.m. The tournament runs through the 29th.




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Lady Cats defeat York, Cannon County



Mac McLeod/OCN Sports
Alissa Sells puts in 2 points in the Lady Cats win over York.

Mac McLeod/OCN Sports
Chelsea Carr makes a move to the inside against a York player.

By MAC McLEOD,
OCN Sports

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden seldom showed emotion from his coaching chair courtside during his fabulous career at UCLA. When asked if he ever got excited during a game, he replied: “If I get excited, my players may get excited and I want them as calm as they can be.”

It must have worked as Wooden and his Bruins won more NCAA basketball championships than any team in history.

Livingston Academy’s Lesley Smith and Lara Franklin must have the same idea. Even when things get a little out of hand, both LA coaches manage to maintain their composure and the results speak for themselves.

“Excited,” Smith laughed Tuesday night after her Lady Wildcats jumped on top of rival York 14-2 early then watched the lead almost get away. “We just got a little sloppy there at one point, but I didn’t see any need to get upset. I had confidence they would settle down and they did.”

Being “cool” on the sidelines had a soothing effect on the play on the floor and once the Lady Cats gathered it all back together, it was no contest as LA rolled to a 70-56 win over the Lady Dragons then came back in an even more businesslike manner and crushed a young, but talented Cannon County team, 79-51 on Friday.

Both games were vital district contests and the Lady Cats now own an 8-1 overall record and a perfect 3-0 district mark.

One of the “soothing effects” was the deadeye shooting of Adrian West from long range. West ripped the cords with five three point baskets against York then added three more against Cannon. As a matter of fact, on the week, Livingston poured in nine three pointers on Tuesday and put up eight more on Friday for a total of 17 for the week.

“Being on our home floor certainly didn’t hurt,” West said as she tried to explain the hot three point shooting. “I really didn’t think I was shooting all that well until Tuesday night then they started falling and I kept shooting. It works like that sometimes. It looked like everybody was on target this week. I don’t know how many threes we had, but they were going in from everywhere.”

Indeed they were.

On Tuesday night against York, West nailed a big three midway through the first frame that halted a run by the Lady Dragons then Shelby Taylor slammed home another on the next trip down the floor. At the end of the period, after a rather sluggish start, Livingston had pulled out to a 19-9 lead.

Livingston led by 14 at intermission then held off another charge by the visitors in the final two frames for the win.

On the night, in addition to West’s five threes, Alissa Sells added two and Taylor and Mackenzie Sells each hit for one. West led all scorers with 24 points while Alissa Sells had ten. Kendra Kilgore was good for nine points and a pocket full of rebounds while Taylor ended the night with seven points.

“We’ve been practicing shooting and tonight it showed,” Alissa Sells pointed out. “We really found the range tonight. And we didn’t get excited tonight when things got a little out of hand and that was good. We just settled down and played our game and it paid off.”

Smith may have had a reason to get a little excited on Friday night against Cannon County. Her chargers jumped out to a 6-2 lead then had to claw their way back to trail by one, 16-15 at the end of the first period.

Then came the second period and it may have been one of the best performances by a Lady Wildcat team in recent memory.

While she didn’t score a single point in the first period, West found the range in the second and ripped the nets for 13 in the period alone. And she got plenty of help from her teammates. All total, LA slammed home 31 points in the period while holding the Lionettes to a mere eight. In addition to a three by West, Chelsea Carr connected on the long shot to give the home team a 46-24 lead at intermission.

From that point on it was a stroll in the park and Smith was able to get everyone on the team on the floor.

When it was over, West had three threes, Alissa Sells, two, Carr, Welch and Mahaney one each.

“I wanted to get everyone in and we did ,” the easy going coach explained. “And they played well. They work hard all week and they deserve to play and tonight they got the chance and they did very well. I was proud of every one of them. It was good to see Amber (Welch) and Mallory (Mahaney) get a three pointer. Those things are rewarding .

“Now we need a break,” the coach continued. “We go to DeKalb on Tuesday and that will be tough , especially at their place, then we get a few days off before the Cookeville tournament. We need to heal up a little and we need some time away from basketball.”

Following Tuesday’s game, LA will be off for a week before returning to the hardwood in Cookeville for the Midsouth Classic on Tuesday, December 18 at 8:00 p.m. The tournament will run through Friday. After Christmas, the LA girls will return to action at Williamson County Invitational in Franklin. Their first game will be Thursday, December 27th against Ravenwood at 4 p.m. On Friday, the Lady Cats will take on Franklin at Ravenwood at 5:30 p.m. and playoff games will begin Saturday morning and run through Saturday night. Opponents will depend on results of Thursday and Friday.


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LMS, Pickett County square off in basketball action



Photo courtesy of Michelle Meadows
Lady Tiger Olivia Long takes the ball down the court on Thursday, Dec. 6 when LMS traveled to Pickett County to play the Bobcats. LMS was victorious in both boys and girls action, with the Lady Tigers defeating Pickett County girls by a score of 41-17. The LMS boys team defeated Pickett County by a score of 63-33.



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All-American farewell



During the late ‘90s, I had the honor of heading up writing and research for the University of Kentucky Basketball Museum. Not only was it an opportunity to preserve the history of one of the most storied college basketball programs in the nation, it also allowed me to form friendships with many of the men who wore the blue and white. One particular friendship was with Ralph Beard.

A three-time All American – the only Kentucky player ever to achieve that status – Beard was arguably one of the best UK players of all time. The 5-10 guard could nail a driving layup with either hand and possessed a quickness and competitiveness that few could overcome.

Beard came to UK in 1946, joining freshman Wallace “Wah-Wah” Jones. Over the next four years, UK seemed almost unstoppable. The team captured the NIT crown that year, and although they lost the championship game by a narrow margin the following year, UK was still winning almost every game they played.

In 1948, Beard, along with teammates Wah Jones, Alex Groza, Cliff Barker, and Kenny Rollins brought home UK's first NCAA championship and earned the well-known title of the Fabulous Five. Beard and the rest of UK’s starting five were chosen to join Phillips 66ers as members of the 1948 U.S. Olympic basketball team. The Olympic team brought home a gold medal after handily defeating France by a score of 65-21.

In 1949, the Fab Five continued its reign, bringing home another NCAA championship crown, and setting the benchmark for all UK teams to come.
Immediately after his years at UK, Beard became one of the player/owners of NBA’s Indianapolis Olympians, where he continued to play basketball with some of those he’d hit the court with in college.

But in 1951, he, along with Groza and others, was charged with accepting money from gamblers in exchange for altering the point spread in the outcome of games during the 1948-49 season. The infamous point-shaving scandal that rocked the college basketball world ultimately saw Beard convicted, although his sentence was suspended, and banned for life from the NBA, forced to give up his part of ownership (as was Groza) in the Indianapolis team.

In the aftermath, the NCAA banned UK from varsity play for the 1952-53 season after rules violations were brought to light in the midst of the scandal. UK’s coach, legendary Adolph Rupp, disassociated with Beard and the other implicated UK players.

It wasn’t until sometime in the ‘80s that Beard was asked to come back to UK. But it likely goes without saying that the damage done in the early ‘50s was irreversible. While Beard had become a successful and respected businessman in Kentucky, his love and life, in many respects, was gone.

While almost 50 years had passed before I met Ralph Beard, the pain of his youth seemed as fresh as it must have all those years earlier. He was a tough man to get to know. And there were many times I wondered if I ever would. There I was, a complete stranger looking for answers to something that haunted him every day of his life. I wanted to hear stories and see photographs and find out just who this man was. And uncovering that part of his past wasn’t necessarily something he wanted to do.

I’ll never know if it was the prodding of his wife, a change of heart, or simply an attempt to reconcile a past that caused him to finally allow me into his life. Maybe the reasons aren’t really important. The end result was that over the course of four years, I grew to love and respect both him and his wife.

I came to know that he did take money during the golden era of UK basketball. He was poor and it afforded him a chance to eat. I believed him when he said he took the money. And I believed him when he said he never did anything to alter the outcome of any game of basketball.

If I learned nothing else during my visits with the Beards, I think what Ralph most wanted was to find a way to convince himself that there was more to his basketball career than scandal. It wasn’t a matter of convincing fans. Not really. It was a matter of convincing himself, maybe even
forgiving himself.

Ralph Beard passed away on November 29, just a few days shy of his 80th birthday. While I hadn’t seen him in about seven years, I recalled those times when we'd go to his basement and shuffle through the boxes of memorabilia. I can almost hear his voice as he talked about his days at UK, and I can still see his eyes that reflected the torment he continued to live with.

But my mind’s eye still holds the pictures he shared of a young man playing the game he loved and lived for. There were memories of happier times before his life was forever altered. There were stories of friendships and struggles to survive in a post-depression era. There was a camaraderie with that group of five starters that often found more competition during practices than against other teams, maybe because no one else possessed their same drive.

I grew to be certain there had been good times in those fleeting moments when he’d let his guard down. I cherish my memories of him that went much deeper than the 1951 scandal. And I hope that the man I knew as an All-American in terms of basketball and life, can finally rest in peace.

 

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