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Slaying the Dragons

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slayingthedragonsBriana Miles goes in for the layup. Photo by Brian BeschBy Brian Besch
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Nacogdoches found scoring difficult, as the Big Sandy girls cruised to a 41-12 triumph in Monday’s matinee tip.

The Lady Cats have spent the non-district portion of the schedule facing large, athletic teams that are often in larger classifications. Monday was no different, but Nacogdoches had trouble against the team ball Big Sandy played.

“I was proud of our defense today; we stepped up big,” Big Sandy coach Ryan Alec said. We gave up six in the first half and gave up six in the second half. If you take a look at the team we are playing — very athletic, very long — and if we can give up 12 points in a game to them, that’s good for us.”

The Lady Dragons had just six points going into the fourth quarter and life on the offensive end was made difficult by the stingy Lady Cats.

Nacogdoches also played well on defense by obtaining several steals, keeping the score closer than it could have been.

“Offensively, we hit some spots at times, but we could never just get on a run,” Alec said. “I think it is one of those gradual things where we took the lead, but we didn’t shoot the ball great. We had some others step in and knock down some big shots for us when they needed to. We were just finding someone to help us get going. It took a little bit for us to get rolling.” 

The coach said that if different parts will get hot shooting the ball, the team can maintain control in games when they play excellent defense.

“We do a good job of feeding off each other and I thought the second quarter did that for us with some shooting and scoring. Also in the second quarter, we had some hustle points with people getting some steals and that kind of helped separate the scoring a little bit.”

Kaleh Corynn led the ‘Cats with 14 points, Savanna Poncho and Briana Miles each had eight, Kalyssa Dickens scored six and Alexis Thompson added five.

Alec still wants to work on team communication on the floor before league play arrives.

“The way we play defense is a little bit different than the way we have in the past. It involves a lot more communicating between our players. It is something we still have to improve on as we work through the season.”

The next home game for the Lady Cats will be Jan. 4 versus Evadale.

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Wildcat defense stops Shepherd

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Seth Beene-Williams flies in to block a shot.Seth Beene-Williams flies in to block a shot.

By Brian Besch
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Both Big Sandy and Shepherd had problems getting their offense started Monday in Dallardsville, but the Wildcats were able to pull away late in the game for a 58-35 victory.

Not only were shots not falling, but the Pirates and ‘Cats played excellent defense early on, playing to a 5-3 first-quarter score, as well as an 18-13 Big Sandy advantage at the half.

“I thought we came out and played well at the beginning. As the game progressed, it was just the little things,” Shepherd coach Jeremy Bennett said. “We haven’t had all of our players together all year long and we’re young, so those little things start catching up with us later on. There were too many mental mistakes there at the end.

The Shepherd coach said he hopes to improve on the offensive side once players are comfortable with each other and his system. 

Big Sandy coach Kevin Foster said his team has been streaky so far in the 2021-22 season.

“In all honesty, that has kind of been our deal all year,” Foster said. “We’ve had quarters this year where we will score two and then turn around in the next quarter and scored 22. You feel like really getting mad at the kids in the first half, but the thing is, we are getting good shots, we were just missing everything. It didn’t matter what we got really, we just weren’t putting the ball in the basket. It wasn’t our best game by any stretch of the imagination.” 

Where the offense lacked early on Monday, the defense more than made up, keeping Shepherd scoring at a minimum. Foster said his team looked different Friday, playing their best game of the season in a win over talented Grapeland by 25. 

“Our identity is we are generally really good defensively and rebound the ball, but some nights our offense is there and some nights it is not,” Foster said. “That is when defense and rebounding have to keep you in games. I think we have a good team, but we are not an explosive team. I tried to tell people that a 20-point win for us is like somebody else beating you by 35 or 40, just because of the style of play.”

The Wildcats picked up the pace in each period, with 5, 13, 15 and 25 scored by quarter. The Pirates also scored in double digits in each after the first quarter. 

“The defense looked really good when we were tuned in and doing what exactly what we were supposed to do,” Bennett said. “We started getting — for whatever reason — a little out of place. That is when they start making a run and increased the lead on us. Passing has been off all season long. We just throw the ball away and make too many dumb mistakes.” 

Kaden Foster led the Wildcats with 15 points, while Seth Beene-Williams had 11 points, Jorden Martinez had nine, Javen Criswell eight and Elias Bullock seven. Shepherd was topped by Jessie Valerie with nine, Tristen Cullum eight, Lucas Moore with seven and Tre Patterson with six.

The next home game for Shepherd will be in the new year, on Jan. 7 versus a tough Hardin-Jefferson squad. Big Sandy will play at home Jan. 4, a district game with Evadale.

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Caging the Panthers

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Jon’Toyrian McNeal scored 18 points Friday in the win.Jon’Toyrian McNeal scored 18 points Friday in the win.By Brian Besch

The Livingston Lady Lions leaned on its defense Friday to grab a district victory over Liberty 41-26 in Lion Gym.

The Lady Panthers had no trouble keeping up with Livingston through most of the first quarter. The game was tied late in the period at 11-11. However, Livingston would go on a 20-1 run from there. They held Liberty to a single point in the second quarter and two free throws in the third.

“I told them to go into a half-court diamond set,” Livingston coach Brittany Jefferson said of her defense. “It still wasn’t great, because they could have got a lot of steals and deflections. But overall, they did better than what they have been doing.”

With the win, Livingston is now 2-1 in district play. They have a win over Splendora and dropped a game to district favorite Hardin-Jefferson earlier in the week. It is a turnaround from struggles early in the season.

“In (non-district), it was pretty rough,” Jefferson said. “They started picking it up when we got into the Huntington tournament. We went 4-1. We came out in third, but they did real well. We have to keep up our energy, because it started off bad. They are trying to progress and trying to keep it going. They are playing as a team and we are taking it day by day.”

The coach said ball control has been the biggest weakness of her team and a reason for the slow start. “(Mia) Poncho does what I ask her to do, but at the same time, I need the other guards to step up and handle the ball as well. When a team presses us, we need to be able to handle the ball well and cut out all the turnovers.”

Jon’Toyrian McNeal led all scores with 18, while Hartsell had seven points and Natavia Davis had six.

A trip to Huntington on Monday is next on the schedule for Livingston, and they will not return for a home game until a Jan. 11 contest with Huffman Hargrave.

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Third quarter lifts Livingston

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Julian Gardner puts up a shot as he is fouled.Julian Gardner puts up a shot as he is fouled.Brian Besch

The Livingston Lions erased a disappointing first half in the third quarter to claim the district opener 45-35 Friday over the Liberty Panthers.

A second quarter to forget put the Lions down nine points at the half, scoring just one long-range bucket in the eight-minute span.

“The first half, we didn’t play with much energy,” Livingston coach Calvin Phillips said. “Some of them got (mad) at me at halftime. I told them, ‘I told you guys that you had to take this thing seriously, because these guys will come out and play. These guys are better than us right now, just from the way we played the first half.’ They got upset and whatever I said got those claws to come out.

“I really don’t know what it was that had the energy level so low. I couldn’t figure it out. We weren’t hitting any shots. We weren’t patient enough – that was something else we were doing – and we didn’t have a good shot selection. We have to be patient, we have to have good spacing, and we need a good shot selection and to manage the clock. That’s the only way we are going to win.”

Thefts by the Lion defense kept the margin within reach and allowed for a comeback. The third quarter was a 22-7 Livingston advantage filled with steals, good passing, getting to the rim and deadly outside shooting by William Dault. The tall shooter had three 3-pointers in the quarter, finishing the game with 17 to lead everyone. Livingston took the lead for good at 29-28 at 4:14 in the third period.

“Being that they showed some resilience in the second half and fought through some adversity and played like they had to play, it meant a lot to me,” Phillips said. “I knew Liberty was going to be pretty tough. They play hard too and they have some pretty good shooters.”

The coach said there may have been some rust from not playing a game Tuesday. A game scheduled with New Waverly had to be cancelled. Last week, the Lions were playing their best basketball of the year, defeating both Coldspring and Aldine.

Adding to the Lions’ total was Jayden Randolph with eight points, Jacob Byrd with six, and Jontavian McNeal and Brian O’Neal with five each. Kaden Nolan was the top Panther with 13 points.

The Lions will be in Woodville next and return home Jan. 7 for an important district match with Hamshire-Fannett.

“If we play as we are capable of playing and like smart teams are supposed to play, we can play with anybody on the schedule. If we don’t, we’re going to have problems. We just have to play smart basketball and don’t beat ourselves.”

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