By Chris Yow
THOMPSONS STATION — Whit Conrad nailed a 3-pointer to tie the game in the fourth quarter, Tyus Anderson converted an easy transition layup to give Independence the lead and the Eagles held off Livingston Academy 49-46 Thursday night in their season opener.
Several of Indy’s players were touching the floor just six days removed from a heartbreaking loss on the gridiron. Getting accustomed to the hardwood wasn’t going to be easy.
“We have football guys with three practices and they haven’t touched a basketball in four months. They were rough — understandably so,” Independence coach Doug Keil said. “Once they figured out what we are trying to do and the effort level we want to do it at, we were much better. That changed the game for us in the second half.”
Indy led 9-7 at the end of the first quarter, but Livingston Academy completed an old-fashioned three-point play to take an 18-15 lead with 4:28 to go in the second quarter to take control of the game. The Wildcats took a 26-19 lead to the break behind 10 first-half points from Matthew Sells.
“We knew how good he is coming into the game,” Keil said. “Our plan was to not let him catch it and double-team him.”
Despite the Eagles’ efforts, Sells finished with a game-high 18 points. Elsewhere, Independence’s defense shined, specifically pressuring the ball on the perimeter and contesting shots from the Wildcats’ other threats.
Indy struggled to find the bottom of the net even from close range at times in the first three quarters, but certainly made the most of its opportunities in the final frame, scoring 13 points and holding Livingston Academy to just seven.
“They didn’t have the confidence of having scrimmages all summer and before the season,” Keil said. “I think they started to question themselves early on, but once our guys settled in and realized it’s the same basketball they play every day.”
Cameron Bell was a force inside for Indy in the final frame, coming up with key plays on defense and finishing with nine points in the game.
“(Bell) played great for us down the stretch, and we need him to do that every night out,” Keil said.
Lady Eagles grounded early: Independence scored the first two points of the game, and from there Livingston Academy scored 23 of the next 26 points in the game, cruising to the 48-15 road win.
The Lady Wildcats were led by Keaton Webb and Aleah Melton, who scored 11 points each. Indy’s Eva Nicholas scored a team-high eight points for the Lady Eagles.
Independence boys 49, Livingston Acad. 46
L 7 19 13 7 — 46
I 9 10 12 13 — 49
Livingston Acad. (46) — Matthew Sells 18, Matthew Carville 3, Hunter Coffman 2, Dawson Simmons 3, Hayden Ledbetter 6, Nicholas Choate 4, Eli Melton 10
Independence (49) — Colin Upright 4, Owen Ries 4, Tyus Anderson 11, Whit Conrad 3, Sam Womack 4, Josh Owens 3, Jaxson Campbell 4, Cameron Bell 9, Ty Lockwood 2, Brady Jenkins 1, Justin Miles 2
3-Pointers — Livingston Acad. 4 (Sells 2, Ledbetter, Melton), Independence 3 (Anderson, Conrad, Owens)
Livingston Acad. girls 48, Independence 15
L 11 19 18 0 — 48
I 2 3 6 4 — 15
Livingston Acad. (48) — Hailey Cronk 2, Keaton Webb 11, Alexis Phipps 2, Hallie Ledbetter 5, Aleah Melton 11, Leah Kate Clark 2, Kaylee Asberry 3, Hannah Westmoreland 6, Lilly Bates 3, Abby Reader 3
Independence (15) — Leah Oubre 2, Evy Nicholas 8, Claudia Chilton 3, Ryan Brown 2
3-pointers — Livingston Acad. 6 (Webb, Ledbetter, Melton, Asberry, Westmorland 2), Independence 2 (Nicholas, Chilton)
Chris Yow is the multi-media director for SM-Tn Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChrisYow14.