by Rusty Ellis
The Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats fought off a tough first-half effort from the DeKalb County Lady Tigers to win 70-53 and move to 8-0 in District 7AAA play.
Livingston appeared as though they might run away with the game early, as they weathered a trio of three-pointers from DeKalb to take a seven-point lead into the second quarter. DeKalb didn’t go away quietly however, as they limited the Lady Wildcats to just eight points in the quarter and outscored the visitors 16-8 in the frame.
That added up to a 27-26 lead for DCHS at the break.
A shift in defensive play in the third quarter for LA led to a 19-11 advantage and a seven-point lead heading into the fourth, and from there, the Lady Wildcats cruised to their eighth district victory of the season, and 13th in a row, by a final score of 70-53.
Ellie Butler helped put the Lady Tigers away, as she scored 18 of her game-high 36 points in the fourth quarter and was a perfect 11-11 from the free-throw line. Halle Ledbetter added 14 in the winning effort for Livingston.
Ella VanVranken paced DeKalb County with 23 points of her own, including three three-pointers.
While she was unhappy with her team’s defensive play in the first half, head coach Lesley Riddle says she liked the way they locked in against a DeKalb team she called dangerous.
“Defensively, we allowed them to attack our zone and they made threes,” Riddle said. “We lost track of a few players because we helped off when we shouldn’t have…we lost track of (Ella) VanVranken a few times and I don’t know how we did that. We just had to reboot at halftime.”
Riddle has been adamant all season about how tough District 7AAA is from top-to-bottom, and as far as her opinions about the Lady Tigers after two games against them, she spoke very highly of them.
“They can 100% beat someone and send them home in the district tournament,” Riddle said. “When a team starts like they did tonight, they’re the ones with all the confidence…DeKalb is very dangerous. They’ve got a great point guard and they’ve got good players around them. If they’re knocking down those threes, they’ll beat somebody.”
The Tigers pulled off the upset of Livingston in the boys game, as they used a big third-quarter defensive effort to slow down the Wildcats and earn a 73-61 victory.
It was all Tigers in the opening minutes of the contest, as they scored the first seven points of the game and took a 19-14 lead into the second quarter.
Livingston battled back on the strength of a 16-11 advantage in the second, and tied the score at 30-all at the halftime break.
The third is where the Tigers took full control of the scoreboard, as they limited the Wildcats to just nine points in the quarter to take a 48-39 lead into the fourth after a buzzer-beating three from LA.
The Wildcats began to find their rhythm again in the fourth to the tune of 22 points, but they couldn’t get the necessary stops on defense and fell to DeKalb County 73-61.
Conner Close scored a game-high 29 points for the Tigers, and Robert Wheeler added 18 of his own. Wyatt Hargis took game-high honors on LA’s side with 19 points.
DCHS head coach Joey Agee says his team settled down defensively in the third, and the biggest key on offense was figuring out how to deal with Livingston’s press.
“It’s just the effort we’ve been trying to get out of them all year,” Agee said. “Our guys just fought, and we’ve been trying to put it together for four quarters…we didn’t handle the pressure as well at times tonight, but we needed a big win and we got it.”
The crowd played a big part in the win as well, and Agee is quick to give them credit for always showing up for his team, even in the tougher times.
“It’s always good to play at home,” Agee said. “Our crowd’s always good and they always come out to support us…we haven’t played really well lately, but we still had a big crowd tonight and we appreciate that for sure.”
DeKalb County will host Smith County on Monday, while Livingston Academy will take on Cumberland County on Tuesday.