The Panthers opened the second half of their season with a solid 76-57 victory over the West Laurens Raiders.
Senior guard Rion Brown managed 10 of his game-high 28 points in the first quarter when Liberty dominated West Laurens, 23-6.
The Panthers kept their lead in a fast-paced second quarter and by the half, they were up 43-23.
West Laurens chipped away at Liberty’s lead and played physical under the basket, but were no match for the Panthers, who were ahead 73-50 in the final minutes of the game.
In addition to Brown’s 28 points, Liberty had three players finish in double digits. Jordan McRae had 12 points. Greg Richardson finished with 11 points and Julian Stokes chipped in 10.
"We did not block out the way we should have," Liberty County coach Willie Graham said.
Graham said the boys are still dropping down to the level of the team they are playing at the time.
"We have got to be more consistent in all phases of the game," Graham said.
Liberty is undefeated with a 15-0 overall record and a 3-0 region mark.
Though Graham was critical of the Panthers, he gave credit where it was due.
"One of the best things that happened tonight is Melvin King got a lot of quality minutes for us and is helping us have more of a force inside," Graham said.Next, Liberty will play a region game against the Burke County Bears.
"They haven’t played a lot of games yet because of an extended football season, but they will be physical and will need to be ready," Graham said.
LCHS 23 20 15 19-76
W. Laurens 6 17 19 15-57
Lady Panthers 63,
Lady Raiders 37
Liberty Coach Carolyn Kelly took advantage of the Christmas break to install some new defenses that she debuted Friday against the West Laurens Lady Raiders. They seemed to do the trick as Kelly’s team walked away with a 63-37 victory.
"We got into trouble against Washington because they kept attacking our man and we were without Miata and Diamone because of injury," the coach said.
She put in a couple of different zone presses and half-court traps. The new strategy paid dividends against West Laurens.
Liberty’s fast paced physical play put them ahead 18-6 in the first quarter, and the Lady Raiders’ fouling helped the Panthers to double bonus before the end of the first quarter.
Liberty’s defense was front and center during the first half. The team forced nine turnovers of their zone traps and presses. West Laurens’ first points of the second quarter came off a one and one at the four-minute mark.
Liberty came out of the half and continued to dominate.
Early in the third quarter, Liberty’s transition game began develop after an 8-0 run and they never looked back.
Kourtney Alexander led in scoring with 22 points. Diamone Johnson had 14 points and Courtney Rhodes finished with 12.
Liberty also finished with 13 steals as a team.
"I was really pleased with how well we played on defense," Kelly said.
According to the coach, being able to play a variety of zone defenses will allow them to be able to force teams to shoot outside more and cut down penetration.
"We simply couldn’t stop Washington County from attacking our man defense. The 1-3-1 and 2-3 will certainly help us in the future," Kelly said.
Friday night’s win boosts Liberty’s record to 9-3 overall and 2-1 in the region.
Region opponent Burke County is next up for the Lady Panthers.
"Burke is a strong program and they have good guard play so we will have to be ready for them," Kelly said.
LCHS 18 13 19 13-63
W. Laurens 6 13 8 10-37