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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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UIL realignment cutoff numbers announced

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uil logoTexas schools found out which athletic classifications they will be competing in the next two school years, but they will have to wait until February to learn their district assignments from the University Interscholastic League. 

All five Houston County schools will remain in their current classifications, according to the cutoff numbers announced Wednesday, Dec. 8.

Crockett will remain in Class 3A with a high school enrollment of 386, an increase over 357 reported two years ago.

In football, the Bulldogs will stay in class 3A Division I, which consists of schools with enrollments of 360-544.

The Bulldogs know they will lose two of their current district football opponents. Trinity and Elkhart are both dropping to class 3A DII since their enrollments have dipped to 355 and 307, respectively. Enrollments for the other schools in Crockett’s current district are Diboll (533), Coldspring (492), Huntington (489) and  Palestine Westwood (401).

Grapeland will remain in Class 2A DI football, which includes enrollments of 164.5 to 249. Grapeland reported its enrollment at 170, down from 190 two years ago. One school in the Sandies’ current football district – Alto – is dropping to class 2A DII with an enrollment of 163.

The other schools in Grapeland’s current district remaining in class 2A DI are Groveton (223), Centerville (219), Normangee (200) and Jewett Leon (205).

Lovelady will continue to compete in Class 2A DII for football with an enrollment of 148, an increase of two over the previous realignments. Class 2A DII includes enrollments of 105 to 164.4.

One school in Lovelady’s current seven-team football district is moving up to class 2A DI. Pineland West Sabine was just one student over the cutoff with an enrollment of 165.

The Lions’ other current district rivals who will remain in 2A DII are Cushing (157), Tenaha (152), Mt. Enterprise (130), Colmesneil (126) and Overton (120).

Latexo does not compete in football but will remain in class 2A for all other sports. Latexo’s enrollment is 138, an increase of 14 over two years ago.

Kennard will remain in Class 1A athletics with an enrollment of 65, which is down 13 from the previous reclassification 

The new conference cutoff numbers are as follows: 

6A: 2226 and above -- 249 schools: 249 (Basketball); 249 (Football); 247 (Volleyball) 

5A: 1300 – 2224 -- 253 schools: 252 (basketball), 251 (football), 253 (volleyball)

4A: 545-1299 -- 214 schools: 213 (basketball), 193 (football), 209 (volleyball)

3A: 250-544 -- 233 schools: 230 (basketball), 204 (football), 220 (volleyball)

2A: 105-249 -- 219 schools: 217 (basketball), 208 (football), 157 (volleyball) 

1A: 104.9 and below -- 220 schools: 218 (basketball), 148 (football), 121 (volleyball)

The 2022-24 alignments will be released Feb. 3 at 9 a.m. for football, basketball, and volleyball. District alignments for other activities will be released by the middle of March, 2022. 

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Final non-district tune up

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final district lineupJosh Perkins tries to put up a shot in traffic. He had 19 points Tuesday.By Brian Besch

The Leggett Pirates survived a late scare Tuesday in Dudley Dickens Gym to come away with a 61-57 win over the Pirates from Wells.

Leggett had a comfortable advantage midway through the fourth period at 16 points, but Wells worked its way back into the contest. They outscored the home Pirates 21-14 in the final   quarter.

“We got out and played good defense and got the lead, but slacked up,” Ra’Shod Jefferson said. “I tell them at all time that it is all in ornothing. We start district Friday, and we have a lot to work on. On defense, we have to stop playing lazy and need to go all out. We just have a lot of work before Friday, so these next two days will be nothing but hard work.”

Up just three points with 1:15 remaining, Andres Diosdado hit a 3-pointer at the top of the key that rattled in off the backboard.

Wells continued to close in, getting the margin to 59-57. JaColby Sells hit two free throws with four ticks left on the clock to put the game out of reach.

“Since the beginning of the season, we have improved,” Jefferson said.

“Not having one of our key players at the beginning, the guys know how to step up without someone. With him being back, our team has tremendously improved. If we expect to go deep into the playoffs, we have to work as a team.

“We need to work on help defense, finding the open spots and how to communicate with one another. If we have the lead, we have to know how to pull it back instead of rushing shots and letting shots come to you.”

JaColby Sells led his team with 24 points, Josh Perkins had 19, Jesse Calderas had 11. Cole Turner led Wells and the game with 27 points.

A district contest at Zavalla is next on the Leggett schedule. They will return home Jan. 4 for a contest with Burkeville.

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Livingston roars in Lions’ den

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Jayden Randolph gets his shot under the rim.Jayden Randolph gets his shot under the rim.By Brian Besch

Livingston hoops controlled the second half of Friday night’s contest to come away with a convincing 61-38 victory over Aldine in LionGymnasium.

The Mustangs are a bigger school, both in physical stature and enrollment, but Livingston shut the Class 6A team down in the third and fourth quarters, outscoring them a combined 35-7 in the half.

“That is the best that we have played all year,” Livingston coach Calvin Phillips said. “If we had played that way against some other teams, we would be undefeated. Last year, I told you that they were going to be better, because they are going to play more together. That is what they are doing right now.”

It took a few minutes for the home team to match Aldine’s intensity, as the Mustangs came out and took an early lead on four long-distance jumpers. A change from zone to man defense helped the Lions, but they would trail 31-26 going into halftime.

The Lions would go on a 23-2 run from halftime into the early minutes of the fourth quarter, taking the lead for good. Defensive intensity picked up in the second  alf, as well as rebounding on both ends.

“If you come to a practice, you can see the rebounding drills that we do. It is like football,” Phillips said. “We put the dummies out there, and they hit those dummies and box them out. Those drills now are coming into play.”

With a comfortable advantage, the Lions were able to slow the pace and work in a half-court offense effectively. Each player shared the ball, passes were sharp and outside shots began to fall.

“We’ve got to do it and not make mistakes. We also have to find the open man. That is what they did good tonight. I don’t know how many points we got on that, but we had a lot of people open that kept their heads up.”

William Dault led the Lions with 21 points; he had five makes from behind the arc. Jontavian McNeal had 15 points, Jordan Bush had 10, and Julian Gardner added nine.

The coach said some of the athletes coming over from football are starting to develop in the winter sport.

“They play together. They talked to each other on the floor and that makes a lot of difference. We had a good practice yesterday and they were focused. I didn’t know how they were going to come out, but sure enough, it all transitioned into tonight. I’m ecstatic because I justdidn’t expect that type of play. Not against Aldine, because Aldine plays against Beaumont United and other big schools. They’ve got some athletes, but we were scrappy.”

Next week, district play begins, as the Lions will host Liberty on Friday.

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