CENTRAL – The tale of the tape for Live Oak’s District 4-5A road matchup Tuesday with Central provided the homestanding Lady Wildcats with a decided size advantage.
It was just the type of challenge Lady Eagles senior forward Jamie Elenbaas relished.
Live Oak combated Central’s interior strength with a collapsing defense that effectively choked off the lane area and forced an abundance of turnovers that helped contribute to a runaway 54-29 victory.
“It’s not an easy task when they’re so tall and strong,” Elenbaas said. “It’s a drive inside you that you want to be better. You have to dig deep. It’s not as much physical as it is mental. You have to know you’re stronger and that you can do this.”
Live Oak (15-8) extended its win streak to a season-high eight games and forged a three-way tie for the District 4-5A lead with a 2-0 record along with Denham Springs and Zachary.
Senior guard Dijone’ Flowers scored 20 of her 28 points in the first half, while Bailey Little had 10 of her 12 points in the first 16 minutes of play.
“There’s a good atmosphere on the team,” Live Oak coach Michele Yawn said. “That’s the biggest thing right now, they’re a team. They enjoy each other, they’re getting along and it’s fun to coach.”
Live Oak’s interior defense made life miserable for Central’s inside tandem of 6-foot-5 Lani Morris and 5-10 Orielle Moore, who combined for 18 points.
The Lady Eagles managed to do so with Elenbaas playing behind Morris, and later freshman Sydney Wigington, and Madison Peoples did the same against Moore while getting help from the weak side or a guard coming down the lane to provide a double-team presence.
“Our girls did a good of adjusting and trying to take away their game,” Yawn said. “I was pleased with that. Jamie did a great job. She does a great job in the post.”
Live Oak’s guards were also active in helping the Lady Eagles force 21 of 30 turnovers in the first half and limited Central to 36% shooting.
If Live Oak wasn’t forcing turnovers in the post, the Lady Eagles also utilized full-court pressure that sped up Central’s guards and resulted in either rushed shots or turnovers.
“When we get into a rhythm of just shutting people down and going fast, making them speed up and rush their shots everything falls into place,” Elenbaas said. “That’s how we get our points. It’s not off of just running an offense. Defense is where it starts. It’s something we’re good at.”
There were three lead changes midway through the first quarter when Live Oak took the lead for good at 9-7 on Flowers’ 3-pointer from the deep left wing.
That also triggered what turned into a 13-0 run that bridged the end of the first quarter with the start of the second to make it 19-7.
Flowers and Little combined for all nine of their team’s points to conclude the first quarter when Jaelyn Ray finished a layup and Flowers capped a drive with a layin just over a minute into the second quarter.
The Lady Eagles’ lead never dipped below double figures the remainder of the way with consecutive field goals from Aislinn White providing her team with a commanding 31-13 lead with two minutes showing before settling for a 38-21 halftime edge on the strength of 47% shooting (16 of 34).
“Our guards, they do a good job of getting after it and making the other guards speed up,” Yawn said. “One of our defenses I got from one of my college coaches really helps us with a team that’s strong in the post. We were also able to get some steals because they’re throwing right to where we wanted. I was pleased with their effort against a very strong post team.”
Flowers, who didn’t play in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach, scored eight of her team’s 12 points in the third quarter and Live Oak held Central to 3-of-11 shooting to open a 50-29 lead after three quarters and didn’t allow another point from the Lady Wildcats, who missed all six of their shots in the fourth quarter.
“We do alright offensively and Dee’s our top scorer,” Elenbaas said. “Defense is something we’ve meshed together well on.”