LIVINGSTON—Bryan Rudder erased a slim one-point lead at the half with a strong third quarter to defeat the Livingston Lady Lions 64-52 Tuesday night at Lion gym.
Last year's defending District 18-5A champions, and Class 5A state semi-finalists, outscored Livingston 24-10 to break away from a narrow 25-24 halftime margin.
Rudder, 19-4 overall and 4-0 in district, scored five unanswered to start the third, and by the end of the quarter had reached their largest lead of 15 points.
"They had a great third quarter and got off to some easy baskets," stated Livingston head coach Pam Muse.
Rudder outscored the Lady Lions 15-5 in the first four minutes to lead 40-29, and finished the last half with a 9-5 advantage to stretch the margin to 49-34 heading into the fourth period.
Despite the deficit and injuries to a couple of Lion guards in the second half, Livingston battled back to win the fourth frame, 18-15, but could not gain all the ground that was lost in the third period.
"We're a fourth quarter team regardless of what our circumstances are, we know we are, but that (third quarter) killed us," said Muse. "This one would have been huge if we could have pulled an upset. If we'd been 100 percent healthy, I think we could have come away with a victory."
Although not a "W' in the books, it was a stark improvement from last year's battles against the Lady Rangers, who won both district contests by margins of 51 and 55 points. Changing mentality will be key if Livingston is to win the tough battles that still loom, including a matchup Friday in Willis, who only lost to Rudder by five in their first district contest.
"A lot of this is mindset, coming from history, and from last year," said Muse. "Rudder beat them badly, and some may have thought this was a great game, but they have to understand, it could have been a victory.
"I can understand that they see a great improvement, but I know what they're capable of. I know their potential, and some of them know what their potential is, too.
"I'm still proud of them, because we got down by 15, and we could have laid down at that point, but we didn't.
"That's the great thing about our kids. They're going to compete all the way to the end. It's just a matter of staying focused, and continuing to do it for 32 minutes."
Shykia Phillips put the Lions on the board first, scoring on a putback at the 6:12 mark for a 2-0 lead. Rudder's Bri Suber, who finished with 19, tied the game with a jumper in the lane, then added four more field goals in the opening quarter to boost the Rangers to a 15-6 advantage with 1:03 left in the quarter.
A pair of three-pointers by Takira Taylor and Gracie Hawkins, plus three-of-four free throws from Jhonrekia Ramsey-Dunn and Gillian Yannazzo cut Livingston's deficit to 15-11 by the end of the quarter.
The Lady Lions made headway in the second frame, outscoring Rudder 13-10. The Rangers started with a fast break layup to lead 17-11, but steals by Yannazzo and Taylor, which led to layups from Dunn and Taylor sliced the lead to three (18-15) with 4:38 left in the half.
Yannazzo scored on a jumpshot at the 4:11 mark and later deposited one-of-two charity shots to knot the game at 18 apiece with 3:34 left in the half. Rudder went to the line with 2:56 and 2:20 remaining and sank three-of-four to lead 21-18.
A pair of free throws by Jordan Potter made it a 21-20 game with 1:56 left. Yannazzo later tied the game 22-all after slicing through the lane on a layup with 1:22 left.
Dunn, who finished as the game's leading scorer with 23 points, scored Livingston's final points on a pair of free throws to give the home team a 24-22 lead with 59 seconds left in the half. It was short-lived when Meagan Daily sank a baseline trey to put Rudder back on top, 25-24.
Suber and Deysta Wilbert scored seven points apiece and two others pitched in treys to lead Rudder to a 24-10 advantage in the third quarter.
Dunn scored a trey and one field goal to tally five in the third frame. Phillips scored four points, and D'Asia Ivory tossed in one free throw. The Ranger damage resulted in a 49-34 lead entering the final quarter.
Rudder still led by 15 points (55-40) with 5:34 on the clock after the two teams started the fourth scoring six apiece. Livingston cut the margin to 55-45 behind a 5-0 run, which included a three-pointer from Dunn at the 3:46 mark.
A scoreless Lady Lion stretch of almost three minutes enabled the Rangers to duplicate Livingston's 5-0 run to extend the lead back to 15 with 1:18 left on the clock.
Dunn scored the last seven points for the Lions, draining a trey, a field goal off an assist from Taylor, and two free throws, which made it a 10-point margin (62-52) with four seconds left.
The Rangers tossed in two free throws with two seconds left for the game's final margin.
Freshman/JV defeat Rangers
Livingston's freshman and JV teams made it a brighter night by defeating the Lady Ranger squads. The freshmen won 48-44 and the JV posted a 33-30 win.
Top freshmen scorers were, Diajiana Morgan, 17; Keimoria Renfro, nine; Karli Black, eight; Karlie Middleton, seven; Annie Woods, five; and Liza Stafford, two points.
Leading the JV Lady Lions were, Nykiah Youngblood, 17 points; Destani Jackson, A'Mya Handy and Nykeria O'Guin, four points each; De'Breonia Cooper and Ryan Richards, two points each.
Livingston's next home game will be Friday, Jan. 15, versus A&M Consolidated.