Lady Panther Diamone Johnson’s 27-point effort Friday night helped Liberty County High School to a 56-50 victory over Beach High School in Hinesville. The boys game went into overtime, but LCHS eventually defeated Beach 70-68.
Lady Panthers 56, Beach 50
"Anytime you can beat a team from Beach it’s a good win," Lady Panther head coach Carolyn Kelly said after Friday’s home game.
Liberty jumped out in front of Beach early. On defense, the Lady Panthers were a force on the boards, allowing themselves multiple shots at the basket.
LCHS also made use of a stingy zone defense, forcing Beach to rely on perimeter shooting for most of the game.
Beach made a run in the final three minutes of the game but a key lay up from Lady Panther Diamone Johnson and a pair of Liberty free throws in the final minute gave Liberty a 6-point victory.
"Diamone Johnson played a perfect game for us tonight. She did a great job on both ends of the floor. She was able to score outside and under the basket for us," Kelly said.
Johnson led all scorers with 27 points. Precious Williams finished with 11 points.
Kelly said her team played smart but she is still trying to find the right personnel combinations.
"The players we are playing as a one and two guard are really fours and that means they are still inexperienced at true guard play," the coach said.
Liberty was set to play McIntosh on Saturday night. Results from that game will be in Wednesday’s Courier.
The Lady Panthers will also play Tuesday and Wednesday in the Joe Greene Tournament at Beach High School.
Liberty 15 8 18 15-56
Beach 11 8 10 21-50
Liberty top scorers: Diamone Johnson 27, Precious Williams 11, Courtney Rhodes 8, Tiara Howard 7, Briana Graham 3.
Panthers 70, Beach 68 (OT)
Free throws can win or lose ball games. Liberty’s Tucory Rhodes’ three free throws in overtime helped the Panthers to clinch a 2-point victory over Beach."We have athletes this year but not necessarily basketball players. We have got to teach them to be basketball players," Panther head coach Willie Graham said.
The game started and ended as a track meet. The squads passed the lead back and forth and the game was tied at 32 going into the half. Liberty put together a 6-point run in the last three minutes to go up 47-40.
The Panthers started the final quarter leading 54-47, but Beach forced turnovers and matched Liberty score for score.
The Panthers hurried the ball offensively, creating turnovers and scoring opportunities for Beach. Liberty’s Melvin King scored on a transition lay up to make the score 65-61 in the final minute of regulation.
"Defensively, we broke down some. We attack too far down court and they drive around us," Graham said.
Beach came back from the 4-point deficit in the final 30 seconds. The Bulldogs scored on a lay up to tie the game and had possession in the final five seconds but could not score. The game went to overtime.
Panther Tucory Rhodes sank two free throws with 15 seconds left in overtime to put Liberty up 70-66. Beach got a tip-in with four seconds left to trail 70-68, but time expired, giving LCHS the win.
Four Liberty County players scored in the double-digits. Shakur Cook led with 17 points. Tucory Rhodes had 16 points, and Melvin King finished with 14 points. Tabias Marion scored 10.
Liberty was set to play McIntosh on Saturday night. According to Graham, McIntosh hasn’t played yet so he hasn’t seen them in action, but he expects them to be tough.
"The assistant coach took over from last year so they will play us hard and press us a little bit," Graham said.
The Panthers also will face Northeast Macon Tuesday and county rival Bradwell on Wednesday in the Joe Greene Tournament at Beach High School in Savannah.
Liberty 17 15 22 11 5-70
Beach 17 15 15 18 2-68
Liberty top scorers: Shakur Cook 17, Tucory Rhodes 16, Melvin King 14, Tabias Marion 10, Shadrach Thornton 8, Taovious Lewis 6.