BATON ROUGE -- As the 24 minutes rolled off between Walker and Live Oak Wednesday in a Woodlawn Summer League game, the deep, talented and powerful Wildcats did things they have gotten used to doing the last few seasons.
Jalen Cook grabbed control of the game at times when he needed to on his way to a workmanlike 11 points. Dalton Moore got a hot shooting hand with four 3-pointers and 12 points. Darius Hampton feasted when Walker turned the Eagles over with four layups on the way to 11. Jalen Perkins dominated the paint.
And the Wildcats’ two key reserves last season, Josh Cook and Le Davis, chimed in with 6 points apiece.
While Walker stayed unbeaten in summer action with a 60-43 victory, spurred by matching haymakers in the third and fourth quarters, there was a different feel to the latest meeting between the Cats and Eagles.
Live Oak has closed the gap.
While Walker is still clearly head-and-shoulders better, the Eagles continue to show signs of growth. Enough so that Live Oak led after the first 6 minutes and maintained the advantage at halftime.
“They have some good young players and they’re going to be a much better team,” Wildcats’ coach Anthony Schiro said after his team flexed some third-quarter muscle when Moore pumped in 3-pointers on three straight possessions to erase the deficit and a 13-3 burst.
“With them getting better, our guys understand now that they have to come out and play well and not let them beat us.”
If that message wasn’t clear, the Eagles emphasized it with a very strong first half.
Life Oak was 8-for-14 from the floor, with DaDa Capling accounting for five of the makes on his way to a 21-point performance. Just as importantly, the Eagles drew fouls and made a living at the foul stripe, going 9-for-9 on the way to a 27-25 lead.
“For our guys, playing this way is important, perception-wise,” first-year Eagles’ coach John Capps said. “It was Walker and that makes it important to us, even if it is summer league. You don’t want to get blown out because you want to send a message that you’re going to compete when it means more.”
Capling and Live Oak juniors Bryan and Vince Bayonne -- who transferred over from Walker -- made sure the Eagles were competitive by matching the Wildcats step-for-step.
When Walker started to inch back before halftime, Capling and Bryan Bayonne combined for nine points in the initial 1:57 of the second quarter, the last two points on a pair of free throw giving the Eagles their largest lead, 23-17.
Eventually Live Oak’s shooting touch cooled, and when the Eagles missed their first two floor shots after halftime, the Wildcats pounced.
Josh Cook notched a pair of foul shots to knot the score 27-27 at the 5:03 juncture of the third quarter. Capling hit the first of two free throws 23 seconds later, but Moore started cooking on the next trip down when he took a feed from Josh Cook and buried a trey from the left corner.
On the next two Wildcats’ possessions, Moore buried two more 3s on passes from Davis and Jalen Cook.
“It’s always good to see shots go in, and in the second half it helped us out because we were taking what the defense gave us,” Moore said. “Their zone gave me some looks and my teammates found me in the right places.”
Added Schiro, “We ran offense pretty well against their zone and started making shots. Once we started doing that, we picked it up on defense and played the way we can.”
Which is pretty tough to beat.
But not as imposing for a Live Oak crew that has taken strides with players getting older and more experienced.
“We are getting better and this was an important week for us to show some progress,” Capps said, noting that his team routed Lutcher 71-42 earlier in the week. “We have some talented guys. They still make some mistakes and have some room to grow, but I like where we are right now.”
Woodlawn Summer League
Walker vs. Woodlawn, 3 p.m.
Live Oak vs. St. Amant, 3:50 p.m.
Doyle vs. St. Michael, 5:30 p.m.
DSHS vs. Lutcher, 7:10 p.m.
Walker vs. Runnels, 3 p.m.
DSHS vs. Woodlawn, 3:50 p.m.
Lice Oak vs. St. Michael, 5:30 p.m.
Doyle vs. Livonia, 7:10 p.m.
Randy Rosetta is Sports Editor of The Livingston Parish News.
You can reach him at (225) 610.5507 or RandyR@LivingstonParishNews.com.
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