BATON ROUGE -- Perhaps the opening quarter of Thursday’s finale for Live Oak in the Woodlawn Summer League was predictable.
The Eagles had already split a pair of games earlier in the day at Springfield’s team camp – defeating Mentorship Academy and falling to Ponchatoula.
Facing Livonia on Thursday at Woodlawn, the third game of the day seemed to have taken a toll on the Eagles.
A slow start, which included missing 13 of its first 14 shots and trailing by as many as 11 points, provided some long odds for Live Oak to overcome against with a quick, athletic Livonia team which had previously defeated the Eagles this summer.
Live Oak responded to first-year coach John Capps’ halftime plea, closing to within a point and shooting for the lead with just over 2 minutes to play, before faltering down the stretch in a 40-32 setback against Livonia.
“We were tight in the first half,” Capps said. “It seemed like the guys couldn’t get loose. We had a shot. We challenged them at halftime to lay it on the line and they did that. That’s what it’s about. Learning how to play through things in the second half.”
Livonia, which overcame a 10-point halftime deficit against St. Amant earlier in the day, rallied to defeat the Gators 31-30 in overtime.
While Live Oak struggled, making only 1-of-8 shots in the opening quarter, Livonia seemed to be riding a wave of momentum after beating St. Amant the game before facing the Eagles.
“Livonia’s been tough and a scrappy team,” Capps said.
Livonia took advantage of Live Oak’s 12% shooting from the field to build a 21-9 lead before Vince Bayonne’s free throw made it 21-10 at halftime.
“I attribute that being the third game of the day,” Capps said of his team’s start and low shooting percentage. “We can improve our physical conditioning as well. I’m hoping by the time October and November roll around those won’t be issues.”
Sophomore guard DaDa Capling, who was limited to only a free throw in the opening half, scored his first field goal – a 17-foot jumper – in the opening minute of the second half. His driving lay-in 2 minutes later reduced the deficit to 23-16 at the 3:14 mark.
The Eagles, heeding Capps’ second-half directive, opened the third quarter with full-court pressure that resulted in forcing four turnovers and limiting Livonia to 1-of-6 shooting midway through the quarter.
Live Oak went on a 12-4 run that was keyed by a 3-pointer from reserve guard Halen Cox, while Vince Bayonne made a pair of free throws and Bryan Bayonne added another, drawing the Eagles to within 25-22 with 1:57 to go.
Livonia answered with consecutive field goals to finish the quarter and added another to start the fourth for a 31-22 lead 20 seconds into the new quarter.
Over the course of the next 2-plus minutes the Eagles increased their intensity, reeling off 8 consecutive points with Bryan Bayonne making three field goals and Vince Bayonne knocking down a pair of three throws to cut Livonia’s lead to 31-30 with 2:38 remaining.
“I saw a lot that I liked from the guys,” Capps said. “I saw a lot of fight from them. Hopefully we’ll continue to grow. We can be a pretty decent team this year if we improve on the little things.”
Live Oak regained possession with a chance to take its first lead in the game following a defensive rebound from Bryan Bayonne, but a 3-point attempt from Cox with 2:06 to play bounded off the left side of the rim.
Livonia went on an 8-0 run until Capling’s drive with 51 seconds left stopped the surge but the Eagles, who shot 29.4% overall, didn’t score again. They also committed six of their 10 turnovers in the final quarter.
Bryan Bayonne topped Live Oak with 11 points and Capling added 7.
“I felt we did a much better job in the second half of matching their intensity,” Capps said. “In the first half we didn’t and that’s the difference in the game. If we play the first half like we did the second half, I felt like we had a good chance of winning.”