Liberty County High School girls’ basketball coach Carolyn Kelly relished her victory in the second game of the season against Savannah power Beach, knowing the Lady Bulldogs would be a better team the next team they faced.
Kelly was right, as Beach sent the visiting Lady Panthers to a 58-34 loss Saturday.
"I knew that after we won in November against them they would be ready to play us when we came to their place," Kelly said. "They didn’t shoot the ball as well as they normally do the first time. One of the biggest factors though is personnel. We had Diamone Johnson last time and she had 27 points against them."
Yet early on Liberty County came out firing on all cylinders, forcing turnovers and using a strong zone defense to push Beach away from the basket. A pair of baskets off transition by Tiara Howard put Liberty up 7-2 halfway through the first period.
The Lady Bulldogs responded. Beach sped up their offense and began running through Liberty’s defensive pressure, and by halftime Beach led 24-18.
Beach remained in control of the game during the second half and things got worse for the Lady Panthers when forward Precious Williams picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter, forcing Kelly to sit her most of the period.
A pair of 3-pointers by LCHS guard Bryonna Graham cut Beach’s lead to 34-26 late in the third period, but that is close as Liberty would get.
Graham finished with 13 points to lead the Lady Panthers. Courtney Rhodes chipped in seven points. Howard and LaShai Richardson had four points each.
"One positive tonight is we will not have to see Beach again this year. Defensively we started out well but we missed free throws and had some foul trouble. Beach just wears you down. They bump, grind and bruise you," Kelly said.
Liberty falls to 6-2 and the Lady Panthers now set their sights on a Christmas Break tournament at Brewton Parker College in Mount Vernon.
"The Brewton Parker should be good for us. We expect to get three good games. We our still trying to find the right personnel and combinations for us offensively and defensively," Kelly said.
Kelly’s team will also open region play after the first of the year.
"I think we will be all right once region play starts. We should see some competitive teams, especially Glynn Academy and Brunswick High. My two freshman guards LaShai Richardson and Bryonna Graham continue to get better and that will definitely help us in region play," Kelly said.
Beach 58, Liberty 34
Beach 11|13|16|18 - 58
Liberty 9|9|8|8 - 34
Liberty - Bryonna Graham 13, Courtney Rhodes 7, Tiara Howard 4, LaShai Richardson 4, Precious Williams 3, Jasmine Smith 3.