by Rusty Ellis
The Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats fought off a scrappy Pickett County Lady Bobcat team on Thursday night, earning their ninth straight win by a 53-41 margin.
The Lady Wildcats took a 6-2 lead early off a pair of threes from Aleah Melton and Keely Mullins, but it was the Lady Bobcats who battled back and took a three-point lead into the second quarter at 15-12.
The two teams went back-and-forth in the second frame, with Livingston taking a 25-24 lead with just over a minute left in the half. The Lady Wildcats then got another three from Mullins and a layup from Ellie Butler for the final five points of the half to take a 30-24 lead into halftime.
Pickett came out on a run early in the third quarter, cutting their deficit down to just one at 32-31, but the Lady Wildcats answered with a 9-2 run of their own to close the quarter and take a 41-33 lead into the fourth frame.
There, the Lady Bobcats appeared to just run out of gas, as Livingston outscored Pickett 12-8 to take home the 12-point victory.
Mullins and Butler led the way for LA with 15 points apiece, while Melton added 10. Zoey Nicholas led Pickett County with a game-high 19 points.
Pickett County was up for the challenge of playing Livingston the entire way, as LA head coach Lesley Riddle says it came down to some defensive adjustments in the second half to earn this victory.
“They came out and attacked our zone really well,” Riddle said. “They had some good defensive schemes as well, and managed to slow Ellie down…I was proud of Keely Mullins stepping up and scoring, and Aleah and Halle (Ledbetter) for stepping up when needed as well. The takeaway is that this is a really good win for us.”
The 15-point showing for Mullins is just a continuation of her excellent play of late, something Riddle attributes to her growing confidence on the floor.
“She’s got great shooting touch, it’s just been game experience for her,” Riddle said. “Last year, she was just on the edge of the rotation when we had a bigger rotation last year…she’s just getting more and more comfortable.”
The schedule gets no easier with a road contest at Creek Wood on Saturday, a team Riddle believes would fit in nicely in the district.
“They would fit in well in 7AAA,” Riddle said. “Defensively, they are so fundamentally sound…they’re very disciplined. It’ll be just like playing another team in our district, it could really go either way.”
The Wildcats bounced back from their first loss of the season in the second game, taking down the Bobcats 71-63.
A back-and-forth first quarter saw Pickett jump out to a 9-4 lead before Livingston came back and took a 15-14 lead to end the first. The second frame saw more the same with a last-second Wyatt Hargis free throw being the lone difference in a 31-30 lead for LA at the break.
The Bobcats built some momentum in the third, largely thanks to a pair of threes from Gage Harris. Livingston stormed back with eight points in the minute of the quarter however to take a 51-45 lead into the fourth.
There, just like the girls game, Livingston just used timely baskets in transition to put away Pickett, pushing their record to 18-1 on the season.
Hargis and Cole Harris paced LA with 15 points each, while Isaac Story added 13 of his own. Jacob Amonett led Pickett County with a game-high 24 points.
Livingston head coach Jimmy Miller was intrigued before the game to see how his team would respond to their first loss at Stone on Tuesday, and as a whole, he was pleased with the effort they brought.
“That’s probably the scrappiest team we’ve seen all year and we’ve played almost 20 games,” Miller said. “The biggest thing for our guys was to have our guys experience a loss like that, we were curious to see how they would bounce back…these guys have surprised a lot of people with their ability to win games this year. I couldn’t be more proud of how our guys came back and won this game.”
The end of the third is where the Wildcats began making the plays they needed to win, something Miller says was due to their improved defense.
“We did a better job stopping them off the dribble-drive,” Miller said. “We had to make some defensive adjustments…we just had to settle down in the half-court, and we made them guard in the half-court. I think that’s where we were better tonight.”
Livingston Academy will head to Creek Wood on Saturday, while Pickett County will take on Clay County in Celina on Tuesday.