Liberty County High captured its first state title in the school’s history Thursday night, upsetting Jonesboro High 58-52 for the class AAAA trophy.
The championship game was at the Macon Centreplex, where a slew of Liberty County fans wore black T-shirts in support of the team.
The pace was fast and furious, and the point spread narrow, as the Cardinals kept pace with the Panthers. A mere four points separated Liberty from the two-time defending champions at the end of the first and second quarters. That advantage was enough for the Panthers to build on as they controlled the ball and the clock to claim the title.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to be named state champs,” Panther head coach Julian Stokes said. “We have been talking about this since the final-four of last year.”
Stokes said his players knew that if they played well throughout the season there was a strong chance they would meet Jonesboro again this year.
“Revenge has been on our minds for the past year and to knock off the two-time defending state champions was amazing,” he said.
The Cardinals covered Panther guard Davion Mitchell, as was expected. But they failed to realize Liberty’s talent extended beyond one player.
Richard LeCounte played aggressive and tipped back a couple trey shots to pull the team ahead. Sophomore Will Richardson looked composed as he nailed every free throw, controlled the ball and nailed a three-pointer, much to the Cardinals’ dismay and surprise.
LeCounte ended the game with 20 points, Richardson 19 and Mitchell scored 14, all in the second half.
Stokes maintained the team’s composure on the bench and on the floor until the final second when the buzzer sounded and the players rushed to the center of the court to celebrate.
“After the game, I just expressed how extremely proud I was of them and that they should enjoy the moment,” Stokes said. “We made history
Thursday night and did a wonderful thing by bringing the community together and bringing that title back home to Liberty County.”
Liberty finished the season 28-1 overall, 10-0 in Region 3-AAAA and the Class AAAA State Champions.