The Liberty County High School varsity boys basketball team was six games away from a perfect season, but on Saturday the Washington County Golden Hawks eked out a 2-point win and dashed the Panthers’ hopes.
The Lady Panthers suffered a loss as well, when the Lady Hawks outhustled Liberty for a 29-62 victory.
Panthers 49, Golden Hawks 51
Coach Willie Graham said his Panthers came up against a much-improved defense, compared with the one they faced at home Dec. 18. In that game, the Panthers outscored the Hawks,
"They scored 51 this time so our defense was a little bit better, but we scored 49 and we scored 80 the last game," he said. "Their defense was a lot better against us. We relied too much on the jump shot and didn’t take advantage of some things they were doing."Graham said his players were starting to feel nervous, especially anticipating a loss, but he said their
problems were also at the line.
"They shot 7 out of 9 and we shot 5 out of 11," he said. "In a close game like this, you have to have all your free points."
Graham said the boys also turned the ball over during the last few minutes of regulation.
The coach said with their first loss behind them, the boys can get back to focus on what really matters — the game.
"The kids can realize that the other teams could care less whether you are number one in the state or undefeated," he said. "When you hit the floor they expect to beat you. Because of the reputation of our program, one of being a good basketball team, those are the games teams want to play and they want to beat you so they can say they beat somebody."
Graham said his players have not yet peaked. He said they’ve showed their potential, but have not put together a complete game. He thinks the squad is still poised for a region title. The Panthers still might host the first two rounds of playoffs.
The boys are 19-1 overall and 6-1 in Region 3-AAA. They host Thomson on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Panthers 14 27 38-49
Hawks 19 30 42-51
Rion Brown 18, Jordan McRae 16, Chris Riley 6, Greg Richardson 6, Julian Stokes 3
Lady Panthers 29,
Lady Hawks 62
Normally in the double digits, Lady Panther Kourtney Alexander was held to just 9 points and Diamone Johnson to 8 as the Lady Hawks outhustled the Lady Panthers to a 62-29 victory.
Lady Panther coach Carolyn Kelly said WACO has a talented team.
"They hustle well, they run the court well and they play like a class act team," she said.
Kelly said the Lady Golden Hawks looked energized in the fourth while her girls looked fatigued.
"They controlled the tempo," she said. "They controlled everything and our kids couldn’t fight them away."
She said the WACO girls out-dribbled Liberty County and set up more trey shots to the outside open players. She said WACO has more than one player who can hit the net from the 3-point line.
Kelly said they will practice to improve endurance. They are still in contention for a top region spot. The 13-4 overall, 5-2 region record Lady Panthers likely will face the WACO girls again in the post season. Kelly said the same thing happened last season and her girls pulled out a victory in game three against the Hawks, sending them home in the post season.
"If you match our players one-to-one with the players from Washington County, I think we are competitive with this team," she said. "But in this game, they out hustled us all the way around."
Lady Panthers 7 13 22-29
Lady Hawks 20 32 43-62
Kourtney Alexander 9, Diamone Johnson 8