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Wildcats win boy’s side of the Big Cat Classics

Photo courtesy of Donald Dodd, Salem News
From left, Rawly Gorman, VP and Branch Manager, Town & Country Bank, Licking; Robbie Venker, Manager; Cole Wallace; Coach Mike Phillips; Austin James; Nikki Hood; Cade Richards; Connor McLeod; kneeling, Chris Bartling; JB Huff; Keyton Cook; Austin Stephens; Carter Sullins; Asst. Coach Chris Harris; Roston Stockard; Leighia Johnson, Manager; and Doug Barnes, Sr. VP Town & Country Bank, Salem.


By Shari Harris, Publisher

The Licking Wildcats traveled to Salem Friday night, January 28, for the second half of this year’s Big Cat Classic. The Wildcats made a clean sweep of this year’s trophies winning 71-61 over the Salem Tigers.

The Junior Varsity started the evening with a convincing 69-21 win, raising their season record to 9-2.

It looked like varsity was going to seal the win early when they jumped out to a 22-9 first quarter lead, but the Tigers closed the gap to five by the half, with Licking ahead 34-29. The Tigers made up another two in the third, but the Wildcats weren’t finished and closed the deal in the fourth, raising their record to 10-9 on the year, and 4-0 in conference.

By the numbers, free throws were the difference in the game. The Wildcats went to the line 40 times compared to 24 for the Tigers, for 21 points to Salem’s 10.

Keyton Cook led scoring with 18 points, 3 rebounds and 5 steals; Austin James was right behind with 16 points, 3 assists and 3 steals. JB Huff had a good scoring game with 13 points and 7 rebounds. Chris Bartling added 6 points, 9 rebounds; Roston Stockard 5 points, 2 rebounds; Cole Wallace 5 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists; Austin Stephens 3 points, 5 rebounds; Carter Sullins 3 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists; and Connor McLeod 2 points, 2 rebounds.

“Great atmosphere for high school basketball. Both schools’ pep clubs never sat down and never stopped chanting and cheering. Ugly shooting game and lots of turnovers. We jumped out to a big lead and then let our emotions get to us a little and we didn’t stay focused on the game plan. I like to think that’s because of the noise in the gym and our youth, but we can’t make that excuse every game. It was a lot of fun seeing everyone in that gym and all of the orange shirts that made the short drive down Hwy 32. We have a tough week ahead of us; we go to St. James on Tuesday and then host Dixon on Friday to try to keep our perfect Frisco League record intact.” – Coach Mike Phillips

Photos courtesy of Donald Dodd, Salem News

Next year the Big Cat Classics will change their scheduling. Both girls and boys junior varsity and varsity games will be held in the same town on the same day, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Salem will host the games next year and Licking will host in 2023.

Licking’s JV Wildcats finished the Fordland JV Tournament Saturday and brought home first place. They defeated Strafford 67-59 in the final round and Fordland 78-38 in the semi-final, both on Saturday. The first round was a 64-40 win over Billings on Wednesday night.

JV hosts Steelville, Waynesville, St. James, Rolla, Salem, Van Buren and Belle at the Licking JV Tournament this week. Opening round action was scheduled for Monday, January 31, with semi-final and final rounds to be held on Saturday, February 5.

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