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By JON LEFFEW
The Kingston Yellow Jackets hosted the Sweetwater Wildcats for two non-district contests Monday evening.
The teams were looking to pick up victories in their final contests before a Christmas break, but a stifling full-court defense from the Lady Wildcats and a huge run from the Wildcats led to losses for both Kingston squads.
In girls’ action, Keith Anderson’s Lady Jackets stayed close throughout the contest. However, too many turnovers proved to be the difference, as the home team dropped a 69-55 decision.
For the guys’, a big first quarter saw the Yellow Jackets race out to a 16-12 lead. However, Stephen Plemons’ squad was outscored 66-30 throughout the remainder of the game, as the final score was 78-46.
The Lady Jackets and Jackets will return to action after Christmas in the Harriman Christmas Classic.
Kingston will play Cloudland Thursday at 4 p.m., Unaka Friday at 10 a.m., and Tellico Plains Saturday at 1 p.m.
Fans were treated to lots of fast-paced action in the night’s first contest, as both teams used suffocating full-court press defenses in the con-test.
Unfortunately for Kingston fans, however, the home team had nearly as many turnovers in the first half (15) as points (19).
Despite the sloppy play, the Lady Jackets found themselves down only three at the end of one (15-12) and eight at the half (27-19).
Balanced scoring helped the team through the first half, as Jenna Ray (6 points), Callie Mergen (4 points) and Tayler Smith (4 points) led the way for the Lady Jackets.
The Lady Jackets mounted a 4-0 run to close the gap to 27-23 at the beginning of the third, but this would prove to be the second half’s clos-est margin.
At the end of three, the Lady Wildcats had extended their lead to ten, 43-33.
The fourth quarter was similar, as Kingston pulled to within nine in the quarter’s first minute (45-36), but the Lady Wildcats eventually pulled away for the 14-point victory.
Several different Lady Jackets had stellar performances in the loss.
The team’s starting front court of Mergen, Ray, and Smith led the way.
Smith, who was held in check for most of the first three quarters, led Kingston with 18 points (10 in the fourth), 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks.
Ray finished with 10 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 5 blocks, while Mergen had 8 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Kingston (55) Mergen 8, Jennifer Givens 5, Thearp 7, Ray 10, Smith 18, Jacquelyn Givens 7.
The Yellow Jackets entered the contest looking for their first victory of the season, and they appeared well on their way to it after the first quar-ter of action.
Behind two threes from Matt Francis and four points from James Sams, the team raced out to a 16-12 lead at the end of one.
However, Sweetwater exploded for 27 points in the second and Kingston went ice cold in the third (7 points in the quarter) to seal the deal for the visitors.
In the second quarter, Sweetwater went on a 9-0 run to take a 21-16 lead in the first 2:30.
After a Kingston time out and two buckets from Matt Kelley, the Yellow Jackets trailed by only three (23-20) with 4:44 remaining.
But, the Wildcats outscored the Yellow Jackets 16-7 throughout the rest of the period, and the halftime score was 39-27.
The third quarter doomed the home team, as an early bucket from Jeremy Lay and five points from Kyle Gough were the only Kingston points in the period.
When the third quarter buzzer sounded, Sweetwater led 55-34.
In the fourth, several youngsters saw action for both teams before the Wildcats pulled away for the 78-46 win.
Statistically for Kingston, Gough was the only Yellow Jacket to score in double figures. He finished with 10 points and 4 assists.
Kelley tallied 8 points and 2 assists, while Sams finished with 7 points and 5 rebounds.
Terence Murphy provided a spark in the first half, scoring 8 points and grabbing 2 rebounds.
Etimlin Phillips was a bright spot for the Jackets in the fourth quarter, scoring 4 points and grabbing 2 rebounds in limited action.
Kingston (46) Phillips 4, Francis 6, Murphy 7, Sams 7, Kelley 8, Lay 2, Mitchell 2, Gough 10.