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Panthers clawing back in sub-region

POSTED: February 3, 2007 5:05 a.m.

GUYTON — The Liberty County Panthers’ size proved to be the difference in a 70-59 win at The Corral, sending the South Effingham Mustangs (7-10, 2-3) to their fourth straight loss and third in Region 3-AAA.
 “We just got out-physicaled,” Wolski said. “Absolutely, 100 percent, out-physicaled. We knew coming in it was going to be physical game. We just didn’t respond to it.”
 Even without 6-foot-10 senior center Ivan Walthour, no longer a member of the team, the Panthers had enough size to go around, and in most cases, over and through the Mustangs.
 Terrell Johnson led the way with 24 points, and forward Michael Manning added for the Panthers (7-8, 4-1).
 “We were a little stronger than them,” Panthers coach Willie Graham said. “But we get pushed around a good bit inside. We knew we had to create problems for them inside. We had to steal one right here.”
 While Graham was worried about containing the Mustangs’ perimeter game, South Effingham wanted to turn the game into more of an up and down affair. For a stretch in the second quarter, Wolski got what he wanted, as the teams combined for seven straight baskets in a span of 1:29.
 “That’s what we were looking for,” he said of the pace.
 The game was close throughout, with neither team leading by more than five points through the first three quarters. The Mustangs led 17-12 on Randal Morgan’s 3-pointer from the corner late in the first quarter, before Barry Drummond’s 3 and Rion Brown’s layup at the buzzer tied it.
 Over the first three quarters, there were nine ties and six lead changes. Morgan’s 3 off an inbounds pass gave South Effingham its last lead of the night, 47-44, with 3:01 to play in the third quarter.
 Johnson’s bucket inside put Liberty in front 52-47 to open the fourth. He staked the Panthers to a seven-point lead by turning a steal into a three-point play.
 “Terrell has played well the last couple of games,” Graham said. “He just wants the ball all the time.”
 Manning had back-to-back baskets as the lead swelled to nine and hit double figures on his tip-in to make it 67-56 with 1:19 to go.
 The Mustangs went nearly five minutes without a field goal and in the meantime went from down 57-52 to trailing 64-54.
 “We weren’t getting shots up,” Wolski said. “They turned it into a halfcourt game, which we didn’t want. They took us out of our game, and we let them do it. They’re big and strong.”
 Daniel Browning led the Mustangs with 15 points and Stephen Davis added 14. Keeping those under wraps was a key for the Panthers.
 “We knew we had to control (Browning) and (Davis),” Graham said. “We paid particular attention to them all night. We couldn’t let either one of those guys get going.”
 The Panthers hit 10 of 16 free throws and had nine players score.
 “We’re coming,” Graham said. “We’re getting better and better.”

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