By Mac McLeod,
For the Livingston Academy girls basketball team, last Tuesday’s opening game in the Blue Cross State Tournament in Murfreesboro marked the 20th appearance in the event for a Lady Wildcats team.
After the win, LA moved on to the semi-finals on Thursday night, which marked the 15th time for that mark, and a win would put them in the finals for the 10th time. It would also put the Livingston Academy program in some pretty prestigious company.
After taking down Greeneville in the opening round of the tournament, the Lady Cats waited for the results of the next game, one between South Gibson and Dyer County. In that contest, South Gibson had little trouble taking down Dyer County, doing so to the tune of 46-29.
That set up Thursday’s contest between Livingston and South Gibson.
This time around, the Lady Cats decided to do everything they could to prevent a repeat of the start against Greeneville on Tuesday.
“Having played all our tournament games at Tennessee Tech helped us adjust to a big gym,” Halle Ledbetter said before the game. “In Tuesday’s game, it didn’t look like it helped early, but I think down the stretch when we came back, having played in much the same atmosphere really helped us.”
Apparently it did. The Lady Hornets, sporting a 27-9 record, took the early lead, 2-0, but Ledbetter answered quickly to knot the score at 2. Ellie Butler then hit a field goal and Mallie Gene Coleman picked up right where she left off Tuesday, hitting a big three-pointer to move the Lady Cats out to a 7-2 lead. Aleah Melton kept the Lady Cats on top by one with a field goal, but a three-pointer at the buzzer put South Gibson out front, 11-9, at the end of the quarter.
A free throw by Ledbetter and a field goal by Coleman put LA back out front to start the second frame, and a three-pointer by Ledbetter gave Livingston a 15-11 advantage, one they would not surrender for the remainder of the game.
While the LA defense was holding the Lady Hornets to only 4 points in the quarter, Ledbetter and Butler combined for 9 more points, Butler with 5, and Ledbetter with 4, to post a 24-15 halftime lead.
Melton opened the second half with a field goal, Ledbetter followed with another, and Melton came back to hit for two more. Following a three by Ledbetter, Livingston went scoreless for almost two and a half minutes while the Lady Hornets tried to close the gap. It got to six at 33-27 before Coleman broke the ice with a pair of free throws and Livingston led 35-28 going to the final 8 minutes.
Butler was charged with a “charge” to open the final frame, but Melton made up for it with three field goals to put the Lady Cats out by eight, 39-31. Melton and Coleman then hit two back-to-back field goals, and for all intents and purposes, the game was over as LA led 43-34 with only 2 minutes remaining. Ledbetter then hit four straight free throws, Butler one, and Coleman wrapped it up with two, and Livingston for the 10th time was headed to the championship game Saturday morning.
It was another big night for Ledbetter as she led the Livingston scoring with 19 points while pulling down 5 rebounds and was credited with 4 assists. Melton had a strong night with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and one steal. Coleman finished in double figures for the second straight night, hitting for 11. She also pulled in 4 rebounds, had 5 assists, and 3 steals.
Butler sat out much of the fourth quarter in foul trouble but had 8 points on the night. Mullins didn’t score, but had 5 rebounds and 1 assist while Jenkins, Allred, and Emma Poston also saw action.
On the night, Livingston continued to be strong from the charity stripe, hitting 16 of 18 for the game and going 11 for 12 in the second half.
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