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Wildcats face State-ranked teams in Cabool tourney

By Shari Harris, Publisher

After winning the first round game of the Cabool tournament Monday against Eminence, Licking faced fierce competition against Norwood (number one rank in Class 2) and Gainesville (number eight rank in Class 2).

In round two on Tuesday, Dec. 28, Licking fell behind early against Norwood, who led 21-8 at the end of the first quarter. The lead extended to 35-17 by the half, but the Wildcats regrouped at half time and outscored Norwood in the third quarter, but it was too late to close the gap and Licking’s final 51 points fell short of Norwood’s 73.

Keyton Cook led scoring for the Wildcats with 17 points and 6 rebounds. Austin James added 8 points and 4 rebounds; Carter Sullins and Cole Wallace each had 7 points; Chris Bartling scored 5 points; Austin Stephens 3 points; Connor McLeod 2 points and 7 rebounds; Eli Shepard 2 points; and JB Huff added 4 rebounds.

Licking’s shooting was cold and was the difference in the game.

“We had another slow start which put us behind, but our guys played hard all night. We couldn’t get a basket to go in, but we flew around on offense and defense and we hung even with them. We got them in foul trouble in the first half but couldn’t take advantage. I like how we play, we just aren’t quite where we want to be right now. We are definitely headed in the right direction.” – Coach Mike Phillips

Wednesday the Wildcats faced number three seed Gainesville, vying for the chance to play in Thursdays’ Consolation game. Despite a better start, with the first quarter score finding the Wildcats only a point behind (15-16), Gainesville’s lead grew by the half and they took a 36-24 advantage into the break. Third quarter scoring was a repeat of the first, but Gainesville took off again in the fourth, with a final 69-49 score in their favor.

Licking’s record dropped to 7-4 for the season (3-0 conference). James led scoring with 11 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals; Huff had 9 points and 3 rebounds; Bartling added 9 points; Cook scored 8 points with 9 rebounds; Wallace produced 6 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals; Stephens gave 4 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists; and Sullins hit for 2 points with 3 rebounds and 3 assists.

The Wildcats’ two point shooting was much improved over the Norwood game, but their three-point shooters were off, connecting only three of 20 shots. Turnovers also hurt, with Licking outpacing Gainesville 26/16 in the unwanted statistic, and trailing in steals 8/15.

“We played a couple of state-ranked teams in a row and we weren’t ready for their aggressiveness. We must do a better job of taking care of the ball and putting the ball in the hole. I think we learned a little on defense and I hope it continues into the new year. We come back with games against four really good teams before we jump into the St. James Tournament that is always filled with 4A and 5A schools. We will need our leaders to be leaders for the next couple of weeks to keep our record above .500.” – Coach Mike Phillips

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