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Cardiac 'Cats win 9-AAA on Stewart shot
Feb 23, 2007 12:00 am
HENDERSONVILLE — Cats must have nine lives, because Wilson Central's Wildcats have used several of them during the District 9-AAA tournament.
Seemingly given up for dead with a 12-point deficit entering the fourth quarter of Tuesday's championship game, the Wildcats climbed back and stunned LaVergne 47-45 on Kelten Stewart's one-hander off the glass at the buzzer.
It was Central's only lead of the night at Beech High School as the Cardiac 'Cats won their first district championship. It came on the heels of their come-from-behind conquest of Gallatin in Saturday's semifinals.
"This team has a lot of heart," Stewart said after his winning basket earned him tournament Most Valuable Player honors. "Coming in as a fourth seed, we felt we deserved a little bit more respect so we came in wanting to prove ourselves."
Wildcat coach Troy Bond said, "You just got to give them all the credit for not having any quit. Easily we could have folded it up a couple of times and even more so than we did the Gallatin game. We fell behind, the rhythm was not there, we were missing some easy shots. They were making some tough shots. They were getting all the tough bounces. We could have easily been satisfied with getting second. But our kids battled and battled. Every kid who stepped on that floor tonight gave us something and left a lot out there."
Central trailed 37-25 entering the fourth quarter before the Comeback 'Cats turned up the defense to ignite a comeback. Daniel Palmer's free throw following his steal tied the game 45-45 with 1:07 left. It was the first tie of the night.
LaVergne held the ball most of the final minute before attempting a shot which missed and was rebounded by Palmer. The clock was stopped with 4.2 seconds left for a timeout. But the officials had the clock reset to 6.1.
Central moved the ball downcourt only to have the ball knocked out of bounds by LaVergne with 1.2 seconds left. Kody Woodard inbounded the ball from the baseline to Stewart, who split a double team to throw up the one-hander which kissed the glass and found its way through the net as the buzzer sounded.
"We were trying to set up a play, but finally realized we didn't have enough time so I saw an open gap and I ran in there trying to get the ball," Stewart said. "Lo and behold, I got it. I just threw it up hoping to get fouled and it just happed to go in. It was a great moment."
Stewart's winner reminded Bond of a similar shot the sophomore point guard made to beat Lebanon in late November at Gladeville.
"We were setting up a quick hit to Kody for a quick jumper," said Bond, whose 21-10 Wildcats will host Rossview at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Region 5-AAA opener. "They were denying the ball out top from anybody and Kelten kind of gave a V-cut and dove to the basket. It's the second one he's made like that. He beat Lebanon on one just about like it. He's just a big-time player. Without a doubt, he probably has as much heart as anybody I've ever been around. He just does not quit."
The quick and athletic Wolverines jumped to an 8-2 lead and opened a 24-8 margin early in the second quarter.
Central slowed the bleeding and trimmed the margin but still trailed by 12 entering the fourth. But the Wildcats extended their defense to ignite an 8-0 run to begin the period and get in the game for the first time.
"Again, our back was against the wall and we kind of got caught in that situation to where we had to made some plays and make something change tempo-wise," Bond said. "The trap was a way that we could do it between the halfcourt and the full. I really thought the halfcourt trap got us going and made some turnovers. We hadn't really used that very much this year. It was one of those things, you work on it and wonder when it's ever going to come into play and it actually did. Our guys just bought into it and we're still fighting to live another day."
Woodard tossed in 12 points, JaJuan Brooks 11 and Palmer 10 for Central while Stewart scored six, Teraes Clemmons four and Arcavius McMurray and Travis Adkins [making his first appearance of the tournament off the bench after being laid up by a 103-degree temperature] two apiece.
DeMario Watkins led LaVergne with points while guard Matt Smigielski added 11 and forward Marcus Jefferson 10 as the Wolverines slipped to 22-8.
The Wildcats' win gave Central a clean sweep of the 9-AAA championships after the girls' won their title Monday night. It is the boys' first district title in the school's six years. The Nathan Thomas-led powerhouses of 2004 and '05 won back-to-back region titles on their way to the State, but finished third in the district both times.
Palmer, Woodard and Brooks joined Stewart on the All-Tournament team. Demond Craig and Antwuan Majors were named from Mt. Juliet, which held off Gallatin 47-42 in the earlier third-place game.
With the seedings as they are for the region tournament, Central and Mt. Juliet could meet in next Tuesday's semifinal at Beech should they win first-round games Saturday.
Bears hold off Green Wave for third place
HENDERSONVILLE — Mt. Juliet didn't have anyone score in double figures in Tuesday's District 9-AAA consolation contest, but the Golden Bears held off top-seed Gallatin 47-42 at Beech.
The third-seed Golden Bears led most of the way. But it took a three-pointer by point guard Demond Craig, whose minutes were down due to foul trouble, early in the fourth quarter to put Mt. Juliet in front for good 36-34.
Mt. Juliet sank 11 of 17 free throws down the stretch. But four straight misses from the line gave Gallatin a couple of final chances in the last 10 seconds. But the Green Wave twice threw errant passes, one of which was intercepted by Jeremy Starks, which helped the Bears escape.
MJ will visit Springfield at 7 p.m. Friday in the Region 5-AAA opener while Gallatin will take a 23-8 mark to District 10-champion Clarksville at the same time.
Gallatin led a couple of times during the early moments before Mt. Juliet used a patient, cutting offense to build a 14-9 first-period lead. Jeremy Dixon's fadeaway off a spin move boosted the Bears to a 25-18 lead late in the first half.
The Green Wave scored six straight points, including the first five of the second half, to draw within 25-24 before Robert Hill temporarily turned them back with a three-pointer.
Jonathan Newbell's three-point play off a runner off the glass finally put Gallatin back in front 29-28 with just over three minutes left in the third quarter. The teams exchanged leads with Newbell driving the lane for another three-point trip putting the Wave in front for the final time 34-33 five seconds into the fourth quarter.
Craig knocked down nine points while Hill, Dixon, Starks and Antwuan Majors each scored six; Jonta Bowman, Cory Payne and Ryan Overstreet four apiece and Berek Lunn two.
Brien Hunter fired in 14 points for Gallatin while Marsallis Malone threw in 13 and Newbell 11 before fouling out.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.