DENHAM SPRINGS -- When you put two hungry, desperate and wounded teams on the court together, you expect the competitive nature to be prominent in the storyline.
That doesn’t mean the play will be razor-sharp. There are myriad reasons, after all, for why those teams are hungry desperate and wounded.
For the third time this season, Live Oak and Denham Springs High tangled Friday night, and much like the first two games, very little separated the two parish rivals. Even when the Yellow Jackets stood on the verge of pulling away into breath-easy territory, the Eagles pushed back.
Ultimately, DSHS survived for a 63-59 triumph that erased the bad taste of a bad second half in a loss to Scotlandville three days before and elevates the Jackets to even in district play. The outcome added another rung of frustration to Live Oak’s almost three-year district losing streak and came on the heels of a loss to Central when the Eagles had a late lead and couldn’t close.
Denham forward Dorsett Washington registered 18 points and 9 rebounds and the Jackets made a parade to the free-throw line in the final quarter just successful enough to improve to 3-3 in the league standings (10-19 overall).
Ralph Davenport paced the Eagles (15-13, 0-6) with 15 points but was emblematic of their struggles to hit shots they needed. Davenport and Joe Bergeron were both 1-for-5 from 3-point range and Live Oak was 5-for-19 as a team against a Jackets’ defense that clogged up the middle and took away dribble-drives until late in the game.
The loss was the Eagles’ 31st in a row dating back to 2014 and the second in a row that seemed like a win that was there for the taking.
“We didn’t guard in critical situations and we took bad shots too much,” said a frustrated LOHS coach Gary Duhe, whose crew has lost the last two games by six total points. “We wanted to shoot (3-pointers) too much instead of attacking like we practiced against their defense. That’s just a sign that we are a poorly coached team and it’s up to me to not let that happen anymore.”
Beating his mentor and friend isn’t always the most enjoyable thing for DSHS coach Kevin Caballero, but he knew his team needed a bounce-back performance after two lopsided losses to the two district co-leaders, Walker and Scotlandville.
“I didn’t think it was a pretty game by either team, but both teams played hard and we made enough free throws at the end to hold on,” said Caballero, who is 4-1 in head-to-head meetings with Duhe’s teams since the two arrived in Livingston Parish. “It’s been a long and frustrating year for us, but our guys keep practicing hard and doing the best they can.”
And winning. Despite the two-game skid against the district heavyweights, the Jackets are positioning themselves to at least creep into playoff contention.
They took another step in that direction by seizing on a size advantage inside with Washington and staying patient against the Eagles’ pesky aggressive defense.
Denham was judicious in its shot selection, hoisting up only 29 field-goal attempts (making 16) and just five from outside the 3-point arc. The Jackets never launched more than nine field goals in a quarter.
Instead of engaging Live Oak in a fast-paced shootout, the Jackets attacked with Washington on the block and with freshman Keondre Brown getting his shoulders past defenders and driving to the hole in the short stints he played after sickness caused him to miss a few days or practice.
Washington and Brown put up seven shots each, making nine between them. When DSHS grabbed control in the second quarter and pulled away after four early ties, Tyler Hoover also chimed in with a pair of inside hoops as the Jackets closed the first half by outscoring the Eagles 9-4 in the final 5:53 to take a 22-17 halftime lead.
Duhe started a bigger lineup than usual, inserting senior big man Daniel Loper to contend with the Jackets’ size, but Denham adjusted.
“They showed us something a little different, but we kept doing what we worked on and got the ball inside and started flowing,” Washington said after he hit 6-of-7 floor shots and 6-of-10 from the foul stripe. “We handled the ball well against their defense and didn’t turn it over as much as we did in the first quarter.”
Indeed, that was part of the recipe for Denham to pull in front. The Jackets coughed the ball up six times on 14 offensive possessions in the opening 8 minutes.
As the teams went back-and-forth to begin the second period, DSHS didn’t commit a turnover for the initial 5½ minutes and two of its turnovers down the stretch were offensive fouls.
“We were shooting ourselves in the foot for a while but once we started taking care of the ball, we were able to run offense and get the kind of shots we wanted,” Caballero said.
Live Oak surged back right after halftime when Davenport buried a long two-point jumper and DaDa Capling knotted the score 22-22 with a 3-pointer at the 6:45 juncture.
But Denham never let the Eagles take a lead, as Brown scored six points in a 2:22 stretch.
Davenport pulled the Eagles within 40-37 when he took a pass from Markel Rudison for a cutting layup early in the fourth quarter and then appeared to follow a Rudison miss from the lane on the next possession while getting fouled -- a potential chance at a game-tying three-point play. But the official called Davenport for a foul instead and the Jackets tacked on four free throws to extend the lead to 44-37.
Denham’s lead reached 53-41 when Ray Whitley converted a three-point play on a press-break home-run pass from Kolby Brooks with 3:14 on the clock.
The Eagles responded with Capling and Reams treys to whittle the difference to 53-47 at the 2:08 juncture, but Live Oak missed three free throws and two floor shots over the next 1:30 to give the Jackets breathing room. DSHS sewed up the win at the stripe, led by Kaleb Drummer 7-for-8 accuracy on the last 1:39.
Both teams continue the district grind Tuesday when Live Oak entertains Walker (20-7, 5-1) and Denham travels to Zachary (18-9, 4-2).
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- The Jackets finished with 18 turnovers but gave the ball up only five times in the two middle quarters. The Eagles were also clean for the most part, finishing with 11 giveaways, three in the first quarter and none in the third.
- Thanks in large part to a low number of field-goal attempts and 55.1% shooting, the Jackets finished with only 4 offensive rebounds – three on consecutive third-quarter possessions and two that Brown snatched and turned into immediate follow shots. Even with the low number on that end of the court, DSHS still dominated the glass 29-19.
- Hoover continues to be a quietly steady contributor for DSHS. Besides his two buckets late in the first half, he also grabbed 6 rebounds and contained Reams nicely in the lane.
- While the 3-point line wasn’t kind to the Eagles, they were efficient when they shot from inside it – 16-for-28. Live Oak sizzled in the third quarter, hitting 7-of-10 from two-point territory (0-for-2 on 3s) and finished the second half 13-of-20 on two-point tries (65%).
- After missing Live Oak’s game against Central three days earlier, Capling responded with 11 points and a team-high 4 assists.
- Three starters for each team played most of the final period with four fouls, but Bergeron was the only player who fouled out.
DSHS 63, LIVE OAK 59
Live Oak 11 6 18 24 -- 59
DSHS 11 11 17 24 -- 63
Live Oak (59) -- Ralph Davenport 5-11 4-7 15, Joe Bergeron 2-8 0-0 5, Markell Rudison 1-3 0-0 2, Josh Reams 4-5 1-2 10, Daniel Loper 0-0 0-2 0, Cody Fontenot 4-7 1-2 9, Trent Crifasi 1-3 1-1 3, DaDa Capling 3-9 3-6 11, Bryan Bayonne 1-1 2-5 4. Totals 21-47 12-23 59.
DSHS (63) -- Ray Whitley 1-3 6-7 8, Micah Banks 2-3 2-2 7, D.J. Williams 1-3 6-10 8, Tyler Hoover 2-3 0-0 4, Dorsett Washington 6-7 6-10 18, Kolby Brooks 1-2 1-2 3, Kaleb Drummer 0-1 7-8 7, Keondre Brown 3-7 2-4 8, Bryan Harvey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-29 30-43
3-point goals -- Live Oak 5-19 (Capling 2-4, Reams 1-1, Davenport 1-5, Bergeron 1-5, Fontenot 0-2, Crifasi 0-2), DSHS 1-5 (Banks 1-2, Whitley 0-1, Williams 0-1, Brown 0-1). Total fouls -- Live Oak 24, DSHS 19. Fouled out -- Bergeron. Records: Live Oak 15-13, 0-6 District 4-5A; DSHS 10-19, 3-3. Up next: Walker at Live Oak, 7 p.m. Tuesday; DSHS at Zachary, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
District 4-5A standings
Scotlandville 5-1 24-3
Walker 5-1 20-7
Zachary 4-2 18-9
DSHS 3-3 10-19
Central 1-5 7-13
Live Oak 0-6 15-13
Scotlandville 69, DSHS 28
Walker 62, Zachary 56
Central 46, Live Oak 44
DSHS 63, Live Oak 59
Walker 69, Central 58
Zachary 40, Scotlandville 39
DSHS at Zachary, 7 p.m.
Walker at Live Oak, 7 p.m.
Central at Scotlandville, 7 p.m.
Randy Rosetta is Sports Editor of The Livingston Parish News.
You can reach him at (225) 610.5507 or RandyR@LivingstonParishNews.com.
Follow on Twitter: @RandyRosetta | @LPN_Sports | @LPNews1898