Wildcats play strong in Watertown Christmas Classic

Mac McLeod/OCN file photo

Nick Choate contributed to the LA Wildcats’ strong play in the Watertown Christmas Classic.

By Mac McLeod,

OCN Sports

Basketball season is actually two seasons in one – pre-holiday, that includes a few scheduled games then holiday tournament action, and then there’s the “real” season, which starts in January. For the Livingston Academy boys, the first season is over and the Wildcats broke a little better than even, winning seven and losing six.

“The tournaments were big for us,” explained LA head coach Jimmy Miller. “We lost four or five games early and just needed to get consistent. We had some sickness and injuries, but last week (the Watertown Christmas Classic), I thought we really played strong. We won two hard fought games and lost another late when I thought we should have done much better. The effort was there all three games, and that’s a very good thing.

“Now if we can get everybody well and back in shape, we’ll be okay.”

That’s the big challenge right now. Throughout the Watertown tournament, where the Wildcats won their first outing against Mt. Juliet, 59-55, lost the middle game to a tough Trousdale County, 59-45, and came back in the final game to clip Eagleville on a buzzer-beating shot, 55-53, Livingston was without the services of senior starter Isaac Story and used a recuperating Nick Choate, who had battled pneumonia for over a week.

“Without 100% from both of them and everybody else on the floor at any given time, we’re at a big disadvantage,” Coach Miller said. “Depth isn’t one of our strong suits right now.”

“That was probably the best three games we’ve played this season,” senior Hayden Ledbetter pointed out. “We had two very strong games, and in the game we lost, we were right there until we made several key mistakes and the other team (Trousdale) took advantage of them. With about four minutes remaining, we were leading by one point, then let them go on a run and we just couldn’t do a thing right. The game was much, much closer than the final score. “

Ledbetter led this team in scoring and rebounding in two of the three games, and credits his teammates for the accomplishment.

“We really played as a team all week,” Ledbetter added. “I got the hot hand shooting, and the others tried to get time with the ball. In team play, that’s the way it usually works.”

And while Ledbetter was making most of the points, it was a shot in the lane with zero time left on the clock in the third and final game by Brodey Coffee that wrapped up a very good week.

Livingston opened the tournament at Watertown’s almost new gym, a place they have struggled over the past two regular seasons with a tough 4-point win over Mt. Juliet. Ledbetter hit two straight three-pointers to put LA on top, but at the end of the initial frame, the Wildcats led by only one, 7-6. Both teams were off to a sluggish start.

Livingston led by five, 23-18, at the half, and held a 9-point advantage going to the final quarter.

But the Bears weren’t finished and staged a fierce comeback down the stretch to narrow the gap to 59-55. Ledbetter was LA’s top scorer with 18 points, with Ayden Coffee adding 14 and Choate getting 10. Daniel Bilbrey and Brodey Coffee each had 5, Easton Goodpasture was good for 4, and Dawson Simmons nailed 3.

Ledbetter and Simmons each had 6 rebounds in the game.

In the second game against Trousdale County, Livingston trailed by two, 17-15, after the first quarter, and was on top by one, 29-28, at the half. The Yellow Jackets moved ahead at the end of the third period, 42-38, but Wyatt Hargis cut that lead to two, 42-40, with a quick basket to open the final frame.

But with 4:30 showing on the clock, Ledbetter pulled his team to within one, 44-43, then the ceiling fell in on Livingston and Trousdale raced away with a 15-2 run to the final score of 59-45.

“We just couldn’t make anything work for us and everything worked for them, “ Ledbetter concluded.

Hargis led Livingston with 14 points, and Brodey Coffee added 11. Ledbetter and Simmons each had 8 points, and Bilbrey closed with 4.

In the final game of the tournament for Livingston, the site was moved from the new school to the old Watertown gym, and again, things turned out like a typical Livingston performance and this time it was a buzzer ending basket that won it.

From the outset, the Wildcats were in control, leading 16-10 at the end of the first quarter and 27-19 at intermission. Heading to the final frame, the Cats held a slim 40-37 lead, and for the next 8 minutes, it was anybody’s game.

Choate moved his Wildcats out by two more, 42-37, to start the quarter, but a field goal and a three-pointer gave the lead back to the Eagles, 43-42. Brodey Coffee hit to pull the Cats to within one, then Ayden Coffee put the Cats back on top, 46-45. There was less than 4 minutes remaining in regulation.

Ledbetter hit a three to give LA a 4-point lead, but Eagleville came right back, not only with a three-pointer but a pair of free throws to retake the lead, 51-49. Ledbetter tied the game at 51, and Choate did it again at 53.

With only 20 seconds showing on the clock, the Eagles missed the front end of a one-and-one fold opportunity, and with 14 seconds left, LA got the ball and gave it to Brodey Coffee. Coffee drove the lane, missed one shot, then got the ball back and put it back up as the buzzer was going off for the win.

“It’s fun to win those kind of games,” Coach Miller added, “and I’m extremely proud of the way we fought back, never giving up, and getting out of here with a win. Now it’s time to face the district and there are some really strong teams this year. We’ll need all the skill we have and even use a little luck when we can get it. “

In the game with Eagleville, once again it was Ledbetter leading the way with 24 points and 3 rebounds. Choate added 11 while Simmons had 7 points. Hargis had a strong game with 2 points and 8 vital rebounds. Brodey Coffee added 3 points and 5 rebounds, the big one the final one. Ayden Coffee was good for 6 points, and Goodpasture added 2 points and 3 rebounds.

Livingston Academy will open the new year on the road at DeKalb County tonight, Tuesday, Jan. 4.