Livingston Academy Sweeps District Foe DeKalb County

by Rusty Ellis

The Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats continued their excellent play of late with their 62-49 win over the DeKalb County Lady Tigers on Tuesday night.

Livingston jumped out early to a 13-5 lead, and after DeKalb County cut the lead down to just four points, the Lady Wildcats got a reverse layup from Ellie Butler and a corner three from Aleah Melton to push the lead to 18-9 heading into the second quarter.

The Lady Tigers wouldn’t go away however, as they tied the score multiple times in the second quarter. Their offense was powered by a strong quarter from Ella VanVranken, who scored eight points and knocked down a pair of threes to keep DeKalb County within reach.

Keely Mullins closed the second quarter with a three from the top of the key and gave LA a 32-27 lead heading into halftime.

Livingston pushed the lead to double-digits by outscoring DCHS 15-11 in the third, and ultimately pulled away in the fourth despite a strong showing from the Lady Tigers, as Livingston took care of business in a 62-49 victory.

Butler led LA with 27 points, while Melton added a 17-point effort of her own. VanVranken led all scorers with 28 points for DeKalb County.

LA head coach Leslie Riddle knew her team had a tough challenge facing them in the form of the Lady Tigers, citing their three-point shooting as something that really gave her team fits.

“I think they did a good job of spreading us out, and when we made a mistake defensively, they’d hit a three,” Riddle said. “That’s a really high percentage three-point shooting team in DeKalb, and every single mistake we made, they found a way to take advantage of it.”

Many people look at District 7AAA and believe that it’s a four-team race, but Riddle is quick to use a game like tonight to remind people that it’s a much deeper league than many realize.

“I feel like any night, any team can win,” Riddle said. “This team could’ve beat us tonight, so I’m really not surprised…I told someone it could be really close and could really go either way. That’s what happened.”

Riddle says she did see some good things happen in the second half of the game, and that continues a trend she’s seen recently from her team when it comes to making adjustments. She adds however that she’d like to see her team show that same level of play in the first half of games too.

“I feel like we’re doing a really good job in the second halves of games because we’re making adjustments, but they’re not new adjustments,” Riddle said. “It’s just things we’re having to remind them of, so I’d like for them to do a better job of coming out in the first quarter playing like that so we’re not having to remind them of that stuff.”

The Wildcats followed up the girls with a win of their own, this one in 70-64 fashion over the Tigers that was built on a late run bridging the third and fourth quarters.

DeKalb County got off to a good start, taking an early 7-2 lead and it appeared that the visitors had a shot at extending the lead. LA rallied back however, and at the end of the first quarter, it was DeKalb who held just a one-point lead thanks to a floater from Elishah Ramos before the buzzer.

The lead wouldn’t last long into the second though, as Livingston opened with a 7-0 scoring run to take a 23-17 lead and force a DeKalb County timeout. Both teams traded blows back-and-forth throughout the frame, but the Tigers landed the final blow of the first half on a 9-0 run that gave them a 34-30 lead.

The Tigers continued that stretch into the third quarter, taking a 47-42 lead with just over a minute to go in the quarter. Livingston turned things up at both ends at that point though, as they went on a 16-2 scoring run to take full control of the game. DeKalb cut the deficit down to four late in the fourth quarter, but the lead proved to be just a little too much as LA held on for the six-point win.

Tucker Miller paced Livingston with 19 points, while Wyatt Hargis followed close behind with 17. Robert Wheeler led DeKalb with 16 points.

Similar to the girls game, LA head coach Jimmy Miller says it was the three-point shooting of DeKalb that gave his team trouble, as the Tigers knocked down nine of their 18 attempts from beyond the arc.

“DeKalb is tough, they shot the ball extremely well,” Miller said. “It seems like DeKalb shoots the ball well every time they play us here…they made big shots and big plays when they needed to, that’s a really good basketball team.”

The big run near the end of the third and at the beginning of the fourth is what ultimately led the Wildcats to the victory, as Miller said he just continued to encourage his team when they trailed by as much as seven points in the third quarter.

“I just told them to not give up and to keep fighting,” Miller said. “We have to understand that to win games like that, we’re going to be up some and we’re going to be down some…that was a big growth moment for us tonight.”

Livingston will now prepare for Cumberland County on the road on Friday night, while DeKalb will head to Lafayette to take on Macon County.