By Mac McLeod,
When she looked at last week’s schedule, Livingston Academy’s head girls basketball coach Lesley Riddle knew it would be tough playing a 3AAA team one night and the state’s #1 2AA team on another.
“We knew we would have our hands full,” the veteran coach explained at the end of the week, “but my one concern was that we didn’t give up before we played. If we can ever get to the point where we think we can win every game instead of maybe losing to a powerful opponent, we will have made a lot of progress.”
On Monday, Jan. 6, Riddle and her crew traveled to McMinnville to take on Warren County in a hostile gym then returned home on Friday to face the state’s top AA team in Macon County. When it was over, the Lady Cats took a big win on the road and played respectable at home despite losing.
“We did a pretty good job at Warren County,” freshman Aleah Melton pointed out Friday night after the game with Macon. “Tonight, we weren’t intimidated at all, but Macon was a very good team and we didn’t play very good defense at all and we could make a lot of shots. Macon shot the ball well from the outside and we never answered, but I think we built a little confidence in that we didn’t fold and let the game get away.”
Melton was pretty much on the mark.
On the road, Warren County jumped out to a 7-0 lead before Keaton Webb nailed a three-pointer to stop momentum and give the Lady Cats a moment to settle in. Hailey Cronk hit a free throw and Anna Beth Colson a field goal before the quarter was over, and despite being down by 5, 11-6, Livingston was ready to move forward.
Colson and Cronk each had good second quarter production, scoring 4 and 6 points respectively, and a shot at the buzzer by Suzanna Hayes knotted the game at 18.
From that point until late in the game, it was a see-saw battle with each team matching the other basket for basket.
In the third, Cronk led off with a field goal then Webb added another and Hayes drilled in three more as LA raced out to a 26-22 lead. A three-pointer by Warren closed the gap, but several trips to the free throw line, two by Colson and one by Hayes, gave the Lady Cats a 32-31 lead going to the final frame.
As she did in the third frame, Cronk got the Lady Cats off to a good start, then baskets by Colson and Hayes, a three by Webb, and free throws by Colson and Allie Qualls down the stretch sealed the win, the 10th for LA this season.
“That was what we needed,” Riddle would say after the game. “Last year, we only won nine games, I think, so now we’ve passed that mark and that means something to the players. It will build confidence and we need it facing Macon on Friday.”
On the night, three LA players hit double figures with Colson leading the way with 14, Cronk 13, and Hayes 10. Webb added 8, Qualls 2, and Alexis Phipps 1.
Then it was time to face powerful Macon, a seasoned team that already had state tournament action in its corner and looking to go back to Murfreesboro again this year, perhaps the favorite to take it all.
The Lady Tigers came into the game with a 14-1 record and wasted little time taking charge. The visitors jumped out front 7-0 before Melton would score LA’s initial points. At the end of the quarter, Macon led by 8, 15-7.
Macon County went to the long ball in the second frame, hitting 3 and doubling the score, 30-15, at intermission.
Melton came back alive in the fourth quarter, hitting two quick three-pointers, then a pair of field goals and a free throw, but it was not enough as Macon came away with a 62-42 win.
“I didn’t think we did a good job of defending them,” Riddle explained after the game, “and I thought we played much better in the second half. Macon County is very good, and we’re getting better. That’s where we want this program to get back to, and I think it will.”
For the second time this season, Melton scored 19 points, followed by another freshman, Hannah Westmoreland, with 7. Cronk and Leah-Kate Clark each had 4 along with Hayes, and Lilly Whited got her first point of the season.
“We shot the ball very well,” Macon coach Larry White explained, “and I thought we did a good job on defense. Livingston is coming back. I thought they did a very good job on transition all night, and that’s a step in the right direction.”
Livingston will be at home tonight, Tuesday, Jan. 14 with Watertown then travel to York on Friday.