ALL-GAZETTE GIRLS' BASKETBALL: Blairsville's Livingston leads Gazette girls' all-stars
On Feb. 27, Blairsville was playing for its first-ever berth in a District 6 championship girls’ basketball game.
At one particular moment, the ball squirted loose from a Bald Eagle Area player’s possession and Mackenzie Livingston dove after it, frantically yelling for a timeout as she hurtled towards the scorers’ table at the sideline. It was a senior leader giving herself up, willfully taking a tumble to the court for the good of the team in the final minute of a crucial game.
Only, Blairsville didn’t need that loose ball.
The Bobcats were comfortably ahead, en route to a 53-33 victory that preceded their District 6 Class AA championship victory. Still, Livingston couldn’t flip the switch.
And it was that competitive nature and attitude of sacrifice that led the 5-foot-7 senior to improve her game, as a guard moving inside to fill more of a forward role and lead the Bobcats to a historic season. For that she was named the All-Gazette girls’ basketball player of the year, as voted by area coaches and Gazette staff.
Jan Brocious got similar efforts out of the players in her second season in charge at her alma mater, Marion Center, and was named coach of the year.
“We just like being in charge, so that’s probably why I tried calling that timeout,” Livingston said matter-of-factly, “so they didn’t get the ball.”
Livingston led the area in scoring average, 19.9 points per game, and field goal percentage, 54.6 (201-for-368).
As a freshman, she saw little varsity playing time and the Bobcats fell short of the playoffs. As a sophomore, she became more entrenched in the rotation, and Blairsville reached the district playoffs, bowing out in the first round. Starting as a junior, she helped the Bobcats to the district semifinals and the state playoffs. Then, as a senior she led Blairsville to its first District 6 and Heritage Conference championship in a 24-2 season and earned Associated Press third-team all-state honors.
“It’s a pretty good feeling, leaving knowing that we were the first (Blairsville) girls’ team to win the districts, and to make the all-state team was pretty cool, and to be Heritage champs, all in one year,” Livingston said. “So it was a pretty good year.”
“Pretty much most of Blairsville came out and supported us (at the district title game), and we got escorted by firetrucks through town, so that was really cool. We’ll remember that forever. After that big game we got to sign autographs. That was really special for all of us.”
Under Brocious, Marion Center took strides in a 16-8 season, winning a dramatic first-round district playoff game on two late shots from the unheralded Taylor Woodrow before falling just short of a major upset of top-seeded Bald Eagle Area in the second round.
“Taylor Woodrow hitting those two shots right at the end, that’s unforgettable,” Brocious said. “You’ll never forget a shot like that, with three seconds to go.
“I’m very blessed to have a team of girls that are dedicated and listen, and a great coaching staff: Fred Glasser, Bob Young and Lefty Rushton. It’s not just me. Everyone’s deserving.”
A standout player at Marion Center from 1983 to ’87, Brocious returned to her alma mater starting with a relatively bare cupboard in the 2011-12 season. The Stingers managed an 11-11 mark that season and, like their coach, came more into their own in 2012-13.
“I’m a Marion Center girl, and the heritage of Marion Center basketball isn’t just being a .500 team. Definitely the expectations are to be in the playoffs, to be one of the top teams around,” she said.
“We all bleed that Marion Center green and gold, and we want them to be able to experience what it is to have that heritage and that expectation of when Marion Center steps on the floor.”