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From hot start to falling apart

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 J.T. Randolph lifts the shot over a leaping Longhorn J.T. Randolph lifts the shot over a leaping Longhorn

By Brian Besch
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Lion basketball fans that left at halftime of Tuesday’s district contest with state-ranked Hamshire-Fannett likely did so with a smile. The second half, however, was not as kind, as the Longhorns came from behind to win 62-46.

The Lions employed a 2-3 zone defense after the tip that kept Hamshire-Fannett out of the paint. The Longhorns settled for longer attempts, mostly from behind the arc. Hamshire set up a half-court trap that gave the Lions trouble and created turnovers.

Many of the points scored in the first half were off fast breaks, but there weren’t a lot. The result was a low-scoring two quarters. Livingston held multiple six-point leads and had the same going into the locker room, up 23-17.

The zone defense was a wrinkle the coaching staff planned specifically for Tuesday’s contest.

“He was expecting a man (defense), because every time we play them, we play man,” Livingston coach Frederic Camp said. “I knew they would (expect the man defense). We started out at the first of the year playing zone, then we started letting too many people get shots off.”

A 12-2 run to start the third quarter had the Longhorns back in front for good. Hamshire-Fannett picked up the pace in the second half and did a better job attacking the zone, getting to the bucket. Livingston got careless with a basketball in transition and the ‘Horns capitalized with a big third quarter, reminding all in the gym why they are ranked No. 13 in the state. The 22 Longhorn points in the third were five more than they scored in the first half. Meanwhile, the Lions were held to eight and needed something drastic in the final period.

“We told them to not let them start shooting the three, because they are going to start hitting it,” Camp said of the halftime conversation. “We stood there and we watched them until they hit about three or four of them. Just give them a contest, don’t just stand there and look at them. We were taking charges all week long (in practice). We knew that they were going to drive to the bucket and all we had to do was step over there and take the charge. We would either jump and foul them or step to the side and watch them lay it up. You can’t win like that.
“When the shot goes up, we have to find a different-colored jersey and get them on our back and block them out. I told them that these are guys that went to (track and field) regionals in high jumping. You are not going to outjump them, because they are jumping 6’5” and 6’6”. When they shoot, you have to put them on your back.”

Livingston went back to a man defense in the fourth quarter and the results were no better. The visitors continued their hot shooting in the half and would collect 25 more to close it.

Ziekus Garner led the Lions with a dozen points, Tyrell Fagan had 10, and Tearance Gray seven. For Hamshire, Jackson Seastrunk led all scores with 22, while Xavier Leger added 17, and Jeremiah Smith and Chance Ramsey had 10 each.

Camp said the last few weeks have been rough. After opening district play at home with a win versus Liberty, Livingston took consecutive losses to Splendora and Huffman Hargrave. The latest setback has them at 1-3 in a very competitive District 20-4A. After a Friday off, Livingston will load up the bus for a trip to Hardin-Jefferson on Tuesday.

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