DENHAM SPRINGS – For a split second it appeared Denham Springs would extend an already memorable District 4-5A game with arch-rival Live Oak.
Denham Springs’ JaBarry Fortenberry came up with a steal near midcourt with 4.3 seconds left and drove to the goal where he was unable to convert a layup in traffic, enabling Live Oak to survive a 59-57 double overtime thriller Friday at Grady Hornsby Gymnasium.
“Credit to them, I thought they outplayed us,” Live Oak coach John Capps said of Denham Springs. “I got on my guys. I told them we’re not going to take it back. We’re happy we won, but I didn’t know if we necessary deserved it.”
Live Oak (12-15, 2-1) concluded a memorable week of play which began with Tuesday’s 64-61 home win over Walker. The Eagles also took their second win over the Yellow Jackets this season after a 59-34 nondistrict victory Jan. 28.
“We beat Denham twice this year and that doesn’t happen often,” Capps said. “I told the guys you have the opportunity to be 3-2 versus Denham and Walker this year. It’s a winning record and something to be proud of. You’re also 2-1 in district. Going into this week I feel like we’re in a little better position playoff wise. I feel we can breathe a bit and we can see what we can do.”
The feeling of disappointment was obvious for Denham Springs (11-20, 0-3) which had its losing streak extended to seven games with road games ahead at Walker (next Tuesday) and Scotlandville (Friday).
It was the 15th game this season the Yellow Jackets had a game decided by 10 points or less in which they’re 9-6 in those games.
“It’s a shame because the kids played hard enough to win,” Denham Springs coach Kevin Caballero said. “They work hard in practice. We’re just young. We had the game if we make free throws. You’ve also got to finish those plays at the end of the second overtime.”
Live Oak, which trailed by four points in the first overtime, took the lead in the second extra session when Byron Smith found Ahmad Pink inside for a basket. Smith, who scored seven of his 10 points in the fourth quarter and overtimes, scored on a put back with 2:16 to go when T.J. Magee answered for Denham Springs on a drive with 1:32 remaining.
The Eagles, leading 58-57, opted to run the clock, held the ball on the perimeter and played keep away until Darian Ricard was fouled, making the front end of the 1-and-1 to make it 59-57 with 26 second to play.
Denham Spring set up a play for Magee, who led his team with 22 points, but found himself with a tough 10-footer in the lane that was short against Live Oak’s Ahmad Pink, giving Live Oak the ball with 4.3 seconds showing.
The Yellow Jackets' full-court pressure paid off when a pass from the baseline to midcourt was picked off by Fortenberry, who scored eight of his 10 points in the second half, but was unable to convert his layup attempt.
“Byron had a huge impact in the second half,” Capps said. “C.J. (Davis) gave us some good minutes. Sometimes you’ve got to get close ones and tough ones on the road and that’s what this was.”
LOHS’ senior guard Lawrence Pierre led 16 of his 25 points in the second half, while Ricard and Smith both added 10 points. The Eagles, who turned the ball over 14 times, shot 38% (21 of 56) from the field.
Denham Springs, which trailed for all but three minutes of the first half and shot 35% (22 of 63), overcame a seven-point deficit (37-30) late in the third quarter and took a 44-42 lead with 4:42 left when Magee scored and was fouled on a drive to the goal, only to miss the subsequent free throw.
“We had the game if we make free throws,” Caballero said. “You’ve got to finish those plays at the end of the second overtime. He (Fortenberry) did exactly what I would have wanted him to do, he stole the ball and down two, he drove to the rim. The play before T.J. did exactly what I asked him to do. He just didn’t finish. They’re young kids, that hurts.”
Denham Springs overcame a 7-0 deficit and took its first lead (18-17) on Elijah Gilmore’s free throw midway through the second quarter.
There were three lead changes over the last 1:23 when Amar Pink gave the Eagles a 23-22 halftime edge, something the Eagles stretched to 37-30 with 2:41 left in the third quarter on Pink’s two free throws.
Magee became more assertive, scoring 16 points in the second half, knocking down a 15-footer with 6:06 left, drawing Denham Springs with 42-40.
Fortenberry’s steal and layup tied the game at 42-all and he triggered a fastbreak with a blocked shot which led to Magee’s drive and 44-42 lead.
There were two lead changes and two ties in the fourth quarter, including a free throw from Pierre that made it 46-46 and Live Oak took the lead with 27 seconds left on Smith’s tip-in.
Kyle Williams, the team’s lone senior for Denham Springs who was recognized beforehand for Senior Night, tied the game for DSHS at 48-48 on a put back with 6.8 seconds left but with an opportunity to win the game, Fortenberry came up short on his driving layup against defensive pressure.
“You’ve got to do those little things,” Caballero said. “At the end of the day the team that makes the plays is going to win, especially when it’s tight like that. They made one more than we did.”