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Stewart ignites Wildcats into 9-AAA final
Feb 21, 2007 12:00 am
HENDERSONVILLE — On Daytona 500 weekend, Wilson Central was running on fumes as Gallatin was chugging toward the checkered flag of Saturday's District 9-AAA semifinal.
But the Wildcats got a splash of gas from point guard Kelten Stewart as Central stole one from the top-seed Green Wave 47-44 at Beech.
Central played without flu-ridden center Travis Adkins for the second straight game, which was played less than 24 hours after a first-round win over Beech. Meanwhile, Gallatin enjoyed a first-round bye and was rested.
But the Wildcats closed the contest with a 17-4 run to find themselves in Tuesday's 8 p.m. district final against LaVergne and at home for Saturday's first round of the Region 5-AAA tournament.
"The ball fell our way," Central coach Troy Bond said after his Wildcats climbed to 20-10 for the season. "And there have been several times this year where it's not happened. And you would definitely give those up during the year for this one, obviously.
"I just got to give my guys a lot of credit for having a lot of heart. We really push them hard, sometimes maybe too much. But our guys are young and I think they're learning from it and they're really growing as players. They just stepped up and made plays."
Sophomore point guard Kelten Stewart gave the Wildcats their energy with nine fourth-period points, including 9-of-9 from the free-throw line, on his way to 13.
But it was his defense which set the stage for the final push as he forced a traveling violation on Gallatin. That up a three-point play from Kody Woodard, who led Central with 14 points, to send Central in front 45-44 with 16.5 seconds left.
Stewart then chased down a Gallatin miss on the other end and sank two free throws with 3.4 ticks remaining. After a 40-foot Green Wave miss at the buzzer, the Wildcats were on their way to the finals. Gallatin will carry a 23-7 mark into Tuesday's 6:30 p.m. consolation contest with Mt. Juliet.
"Great win for our kids to put us in the championship game of the district," Bond said. "I know you've heard this a thousand times, but to be as young as we are and to be without our starting five-man [Adkins], it says a lot about our kids' character and about what they want to do. They just hung in there and fought like crazy and we came out on top."
Central led 6-2 early before Gallatin came back to a one-point lead at the first-quarter buzzer on a dunk by Marsallis Malone.
The Green Wave opened the margin in the second quarter as Brien Hunter scored seven and Jonathan Newbell six to help Gallatin to a 22-14 halftime lead. Both finished with 14 points.
Central wouldn't go away though as Stewart drove the lane for a runner to put the Wildcats back in front 25-24 late in the third quarter. But six straight points by Newbell, including a tip-in at the buzzer, sent Gallatin into the fourth in front 30-25.
Though the Wildcats continued to play hard and tough on defense, fatigue seemed to be having an effect on their shooting as Gallatin opened a 40-30 lead on Michael Sweat's basket underneath.
Daniel Palmer knocked down nine points from inside for Central while JaJuan Brooks tossed in two three-pointers for his eight, Austin Auld two free throws and Arcavius McMurray one.
Craig-led Mt. Juliet comeback falls short
HENDERSONVILLE — As snow fell outside and rumors of icy roads, vehicles in ditches and multi-car pileups began filtering inside, many fans headed to the exits as Mt. Juliet and LaVergne hit the Beech court for Saturday's final District 9-AAA semifinal Saturday night.
It appeared the offenses were also trying to head for home as the teams waged a defensive struggle which was won by LaVergne 42-39.
"They just did a great job defensively on us," Mt. Juliet coach Troy Allen said after his Golden Bears dropped to 18-10 and into Tuesday's 6:30 p.m. consolation contest against top-seed Gallatin. "We couldn't get anything started offensively. The offense wasn't very good until late in the game."
LaVergne led all the way, including 7-2 following the first quarter, 17-12 at halftime and 26-20 through three periods.
The Wolverines were up 35-25 midway through the fourth quarter before Demond Craig came alive with all 11 of his points down the stretch, including three 3-pointers, for the Golden Bears. His triple brought the Bears within 38-37 and his layup with 16.2 seconds left made it 41-39.
Craig then intercepted a long inbounds pass but missed a shot. LaVergne's Justin Bather, who led all scorers with 16 points, was fouled on the rebound and made 1 of 2 free throws with 6.9 seconds left, leaving Mt. Juliet with a three-point shot. But Marcus Jefferson intercepted a pass to send the Wolverines into Tuesday's 8 p.m. championship game against Wilson Central with a 22-7 record.
"They did a good job on him," Allen said of Craig. "He had some big shots late. That's who teams key on. They key on him and he was having to give the ball up instead of being our scorer early."
Antwuan Majors scored seven for Mt. Juliet while Jonta Bowman finished with five; Berek Lunn, Cory Payne and Jeremy Dixon four each and Robert Hill and Ryan Overstreet two apiece.
With the loss, Mt. Juliet will be on the road Saturday for the opening round of the Region 5-AAA tournament.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at email@example.com.