WATSON – Live Oak basketball coach John Capps thought it may be one of those nights.
Not by the way his team opened with six straight points in Tuesday’s non-district game with arch-rival Denham Springs, but by the way they finished the quarter with 11 consecutive points.
Moreover, the Eagles made three successive 3-pointers with Byron Smith’s attempt slightly catching some of the backboard from the left corner at the buzzer to typify an evening in which Live Oak dominated from start to finish in a 59-34 victory.
“Everything went our way,” Capps said.
Senior guard Lawrence Pierre scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the first half, recording four of his team's seven 3-pointers, and senior Amar Pink added 10 and senior point guard Darian Ricard nine.
“This a big one for us,” Capps said. “It keeps us in that Top 32 (power ratings) range. That’s the goal right now.”
Conversely, the lopsided loss for Denham Springs (11-15) came four days after the Yellow Jackets defeated fellow district team Central (58-53).
The Yellow Jackets, who started four sophomores and a junior, fell to 7-11 on games played away from home.
“This is two road games in a row that we have not played well at all,” said Denham Springs coach Kevin Caballero, whose team travels to University High on Friday and Port Allen next Tuesday. “We can run whatever we run and guard whoever you’re going to guard but at the end of the day, if you can’t put the ball through the net you’re not going to win games and that’s what happened to us.”
Live Oak (10-11) never trailed, scoring the game’s first six points behind Pierre when Denham Springs got a field goal from JaBarry Fortenberry and a pair of free throws from Elijah Gilmore to trail 9-4.
Live Oak relied on an effective 2-3 zone that they were able to expand on the wings and forced Denham Springs to miss its last 15 shots of the half and wound up 1-of-18 from the field – including eight misses from 3-point range.
“We’ve been playing good,” Pierre said. “It all starts on defense and that’s going to translate into offense which is something coach always drills into our heads.”
Pierre scored 13 points in the first quarter and Live Oak’s finish on an 11-0 run gave the Eagles a commanding 20-4 lead going into the second quarter where they outscored the Jackets 8-1 to make it 29-5 on a pair of Ricard’s free throws.
“We tried to throw a couple of different things at them,” Capps said. “They’re young and it was their first time coming in here. I knew they were coming off a big win. They missed a ton of shots that weren’t bad shots and I think it snowballed on them. Credit to our guys. We took advantage of it. We were more experienced and had been through a few more battles.”
Live Oak shot 47% against Denham Springs’ 1-3-1 zone in the first half with Ahmad Pink giving the Eagles the edge inside on the offensive glass.
He scored six of his team’s first eight points of the third quarter and Pierre added a layup off a steal to make it 39-6 at the 3:53 mark.
Denham Springs’ shooting woes continued, missing its first seven shots of the third quarter, when point guard T.J. Magee snapped an 0-of-21 stretch from the field – a span of 19 minutes without a field goal – when he hit a runner in the lane with 2:50 left in the third quarter.
Senior Kyle Williams led the Yellow Jackets, which shot 22% (9 of 41), with nine points, while Magee and Gilmore each added seven.
“They had their way with us,” Caballero said of Live Oak. “They were more physical; they were the better basketball team.”
Live Oak, which shot 53.3% through three quarters, established its biggest lead (53-13) near the end of the quarter when Pierre perfectly led Ricard with a pass in transition for a layin.
“I like the way we’re coming along to where I feel we can compete with just about anybody,” Capps said.