HOLDEN - A year after making a trip to the Class 5A state championship game, Denham Springs is getting the type of treatment befitting a state runner-up team.
Two days after a narrow two-point win over Brusly, the Lady Jackets were treated to another physical, intense matchup that required a key run midway in the fourth quarter for a 48-34 victory Wednesday over Live Oak in the Livingston Parish Tournament at Holden High.
“I told them the target’s on our back,” said Denham Springs coach Blake Zito, whose team shot 40% (20 of 50) from the field and was just 3-of-18 from 3-point range. “They’ve got to get used to that. Every team’s going to bring their best game and effort wise against us. Live Oak played hard and did all of the little things right. We had some moments where we didn’t look so great, but I’m proud of the way we played four quarters of basketball.”
Denham Springs (8-2), the reigning parish champion, advanced to Friday’s quarterfinal around at 3 p.m. against third-seeded Albany.
Getting there was no easy chore with Denham Springs having to fend off a determined effort from Live Oak (5-4) which trailed by only six points (36-30) with six minutes remaining.
Lamar University signee Dijone’ Flowers, who led all scorers with 19 points, cut Denham Springs’ third quarter lead of 36-26 to six after opening the final quarter with a pair of drives to the basket that resulted in lay-ins.
“We showed a lot of fight and played hard,” Live Oak coach Michele Yawn said. “They gave us everything they had. We got after it. The shots weren’t falling later on.”
Denham Springs responded with its second biggest run of the game, sparked by Kate Thompson’s spin move in the lane that made it 38-30.
The led to a stretch of 12 unanswered points from the Lady Jackets that included Trenishia Muse scoring four of her team-high 17 and Maddie Howell adding four of her 12 points that made it 46-30 with 2:48 to play.
“Our offense is for me and Kate,” Muse said. “We’re partners and if I set the screen and roll, she’s looking for me. If she sets it, I’m looking for her. From there we’re looking to post up and if that’s not there we’re kicking out to the open person on the wing.”
DSHS’ run ended with Kennedy King making a pair of free throws before Live Oak was able to halt a 0-for-11 stretch from the field with its first field goal in more than five minutes on Aislynn White’s put back.
The Lady Eagles were 8-of-30 (27%) in the second half, including 4-of-16 in the fourth quarter.
“Trenishia and Maddie both did a great job of finishing around the rim,” Zito said. “I’m very happy with the way they played and finished around the rim. They did what they had to do to win the game.”
Flowers scored all nine of her team’s points in the first quarter, but DSHS took the lead for good (8-6) when Howell took a long pass over Live Oak’s press and knocked down a baseline jumper.
Point guard Violett Jackson drove in for a layup to start 14-0 run which the Lady Jackets turned into a 24-9 advantage.
Denham Springs made five of its first seven shots during that stretch with Howell sinking a pair of 3-pointers, the second on a feed from Muse, while Muse converted a spin move, Thompson a pair of free throws and Shereka Taylor a put back off of an offensive rebound.
The Lady Eagles closed within 24-17 with 36 seconds left before halftime when Madison Peoples scored twice on offensive rebounds, Ray on a layup and Flowers on a drive.
“It was a tough game,” Muse said. “Coach Zito said it was going to be a dogfight, so we had to keep playing hard and keep our heads in the game.”