published Friday, December 14th, 2012

Woods, Swafford lead rises for Meigs County

  • photo
    Meigs County's Levi Woods plays against Bledsoe County at Meigs County High School.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Tyner's Treketta Bonds (32) shoots a layup as Meigs County's Emileigh Swafford attempts to block.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Levi Woods will never dish to Emileigh Swafford for a 3-pointer. Chances are, Swafford will never be able to high-five Woods after passing to him for a dunk or an "and one."

Yet there is a tie that binds the two, and their collective worth to the Meigs County basketball programs is worth a lot more than any assist.

In a school the size of Meigs, with an enrollment of 502, lie two of the area's better basketball teams and two of the better players. The Lady Tigers (11-0) have the best game on tonight's schedule, against bitter District 5-AA rival McMinn Central (9-1), while Meigs' boys are 6-5 to the Chargers' 9-1.

Woods, a 6-foot-4 guard/forward with more than 1,000 points in his career, is averaging 25.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.7 steals for the Tigers, while Swafford is the Lady Tigers' leading scorer.

Both feel confident about their teams and their chances this season.

"We've done well and played well together," Swafford said. "I definitely think we have a team that can make a run, as long as we play like a team. If we play 'Me' ball and get jealous towards each other, we won't, but if we play like we have been, we can. If we start to act jealous or get frustrated towards each other, we talk about it and try to work through it."

Woods said it's easy to be forgotten in Decatur with a population of 11,687. He plays AAU basketball and spent the summer playing on a team coached by former Harlem Globetrotter Paul Gaffney.

"There aren't many coaches that go to the division we're in to find players," Woods said. "I like playing those games against better competition; there's something about it that makes me better and brings the best out of the team. Nobody takes us serious, so we have to go out there and play.

"I've always played with a lot of emotion and passion; it gets me in trouble sometimes, but I like to play better people and show them what I can do."

Said Swafford: "At times you feel like you don't get a lot of attention, and that people in bigger areas will get recognized unless they've already been seen."

Swafford shyly admitted that she and Woods dated at one time. They have been friends since middle school and are very complimentary of each other's game and accomplishments.

"Our girls have a really good team, and I hope they beat McMinn Central on Friday," Woods said. "Last year they pulled off the win, and the atmosphere was great before our game. I was more pumped seeing them win, and we almost pulled it off ourselves.

"I think Emileigh's the top player in the district," he added. "She can score and get it done and has the potential to go far."

The Lady Tigers won last year's game in Decatur 55-54, and Swafford is calling this year's version the "biggest game of the year."

"I think our crowd gets us ready," she said. "I'm expecting a big crowd, and a lot of tension between the players."

Tension? There is plenty of it between the two athletic programs, and Swafford and Woods did not sugarcoat their feelings for their opponents tonight.

"Even when I was in middle school, I couldn't stand them," Woods said. "It's always a big game when we play them, and there's not another game I get pumped up for more than when we play them.

"I can't put my finger on it; I talk to some of them outside of this game, but on the court we go at it. Everybody in this county gets pumped up for this game, and everybody loves seeing Central get beat."

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