MAUREPAS – Second-year Live Oak boys basketball coach John Capps wanted to make sure his players understood the gravity of the moment, instead of choosing to focus on reaching its third Livingston Parish Tournament championship game.
Capps didn’t want to underscore the accomplishment by his second-seeded Eagles in a convincing 81-49 victory Friday over third-seeded Denham Springs in semifinal tournament action at Maurepas High School.
“That’s a big win,” Capps said. “I know what the goal was, but anytime you can beat Denham in the semifinals of the parish tournament you better enjoy this one. I told our guys to soak this in because this doesn’t always happen.”
Live Oak (11-0) will face three-time defending champion Walker in Saturday’s final at 7:30.
The Eagles are in search of the school’s first parish title since 1993.
“We’ve got to come into the game and be mentally prepared and just play our game,” Live Oak point guard DaDa Capling said.
Capling was part of Live Oak’s first-quarter explosion in which the Eagles made four of their first six shots – all of which were 3-pointers – and never trailed in the game.
Live Oak bolted to a commanding 24-4 first-quarter advantage, never allowing its lead to dip below 16 points the remainder of the way.
“They just outplayed us physically and they’re really skilled offensively,” Denham Springs coach Kevin Caballero said. “They just beat us in all facets of the game and I’ll take some of that. Maybe we weren’t ready to play. I thought we were, but it shouldn’t look like once we got out there.”
Four of Live Oak’s starters scored during the Eagles opening salvo with Bryan Bayonne scoring seven of his team-high 24 points.
Capling scored 12 of his 22 points in the first half with Vince Bayonne adding 11 and Halen Cox nine.
With the Eagles opening things up from the perimeter they were able to effectively run their motion offense, enabling Capling to twice score in the lane, while Capling picked up a steal and fed Darian Ricard for a three-point play.
“We’re expected to do that, it’s not a surprise,” Capling said of his team’s first-quarter blitz. “It’s supposed to happen.”
Live Oak took a 39-20 lead into the locker room after Cox’s leaner in the lane with 4.5 seconds to go, capping a first-half in which the Eagles shot 58 percent (14 of 24) from the field.
Denham Springs was limited to 30.4 percent (7 of 23) and committed nine turnovers.
“It was a more complete game,” Capps said. “We knew we were quicker than they were, but we also knew they were bigger than us. It was going to be contrasting styles which has kind of been the tale of our matchups for the last couple of years. I thought we did a good job of imposing our pace of taking good shots and speeding them up.”
Live Oak wound up shooting 64 percent (23 of 36) through three quarters, establishing a 64-28 lead to that juncture. The Eagles were also 50 percent (8 of 16) from 3-point range.
“They shoot the ball extremely well,” Caballero said. “It wasn’t just that. They defended us. I thought we were a little timid at first and next think you know we’re down 20 trying to dig out from there.”
Denham Springs endured a three-plus minute stretch in the third quarter of 1 of 8 shooting before Kaleb Drummer’s driving basket stopped the drought.
Live Oak, which outscored Denham Springs 25-8 in the third quarter, led by as many as 38 points (66-28) on a pair of free throws from Cox with 7:31 remaining.
“I told our guys that when we share the ball, we’re so tough to guard and we’re so fun to watch,” Capps said. “I think we’re getting to that point where we can be a special team. We’ll find out.”