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State-ranked H-J claims narrow win

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Julian Gardner gets two of his six points in the first half. PHOTOS BY BRIAN BESCHJulian Gardner gets two of his six points in the first half. PHOTOS BY BRIAN BESCHBy Brian Besch

In a game for the District 21-4A lead, the Livingston Lions fell a couple of buckets short of Hardin-Jefferson 62-56 Friday night in Sour Lake.

After a small lead to start the game, the Lions fell behind by 10 and seemed to fight all night around that deficit. A traditional power, the Hawks have another solid squad with several contributors and a deep bench.

Getting many of their points off turnovers, the Hawks scored 22 and 17 in the first two quarters, respectively. The Lions adjusted and held them to 10 and 13 in the second half. A furious comeback effort in the fourth quarter that included more pressing produced 21 points for the Lions, their best offensive showing.

“The main thing that hurt us was the pressure,” Livingston coach Calvin Phillips said. “We didn’t handle that very well until we started to settle down and started to make a comeback. We hit a few baskets seeing the open man. We kind of beat ourselves because we wouldn’t take our time. That’s what they want to do, is rush us. We played their game rushing for maybe eight minutes or more and that is how they got the push on us. We have to be content and be patient, and then we might have pulled it out.

Hardin-Jefferson had contributions from seven scorers, led by Jonathan Melvo with 21, Micah Brown 11 and R.J. Sears with nine. Livingston’s Tae McNeal led the Lions with a dozen, Terrance Gray had 11, Jayden Randolph 10 and Brian O’Neal with seven.

“We’ve just got to go get Liberty on Tuesday,” Phillips said. “It is one of the things that we talked about where we have to be patient in order to beat these guys. Randolph had a pretty good game, but they beat us inside getting rebounds, because we weren’t doing a good job of boxing out. That is one of the things that we should have taken care of. It is small, but it didn’t happen.”

Even with the loss, confidence should be very high going into the second round of district. A six-point loss could have been much different with a few breaks going the other way. There are adjustments to be made and the Lions can hope that the 28 fouls called against them compared to 10 on the Hawks is an aberration.

“That is what they (Lion players) were saying to me in the dressing room – that if we played them this close at their place, we should be able to get them at home. I think they were a little surprised themselves, but we were playing good ball. When we play our ball, we do a pretty good job. I don’t feel bad about it at all. The kids competed and did what we wanted to do. We just kind of fell short.”

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