Liberty County High School tipped off basketball season at home against Beach High on Friday night. Both Panthers squads earned victories.
Liberty 71, Beach 63
Liberty’s boys opened the 2009-10 campaign with a 71-63 victory over Beach.
"It’s always good to beat a team like Beach. It was a hard fought battle and our first really tough competition since starting practice," Panthers coach Willie Graham said.
The game was close early on as both teams played physical ball, but Liberty led 19-13 at the end of the first quarter
Liberty’s offense exploded in the second quarter and went to the locker room at the half with a double-digit lead and never looked back.Beach made a run at the Panthers during the middle part of the fourth quarter, but a couple of Bulldog turnovers and quick Liberty transition buckets stifled the rally.
The Panthers were playing with a sparse bench Friday night as several members of the LCHS team were playing with the Liberty football team in the second round of football playoffs at Jackson.
"We played with a small bench tonight. We had one player that got some quality time in his first varsity game and that could help us in the future," Graham said.
Rion Brown led the Panther with 26 points, and Jordan McRae had 21 points. Greg Richardson and Chris Riley had nine points each.
Liberty will have a busy week during the break with three games scheduled for next week.
"I’ve told the players that the practices next week are going to be the games, which will force us to work hard against quality opponents and work on being more aggressive," the Panthers’ coach said.
Liberty 71, Beach 63
LCHS 19 19 13 20-71
Beach 13 10 16 24-63
Liberty girls coach Carolyn Kelly knew it would be hard to compete with the size of the Beach Lady Bulldogs, but she suspected she could use speed to compensate. She was correct. Liberty’s speed allowed them to dominate in a 58-33 win.
"We are not as tall as Beach, but I knew if we kept them away from the basket and pressed them defensively, we could win," Kelly said.
Both teams opened the game plagued with turnovers. Liberty’s physical play and transition game allowed them a basket lead at the end of the first quarter.
Liberty went on 8-0 run midway through the second quarter and took an 18-16 lead at the half.
The Lady Panthers barraged Beach offensively, 21-10, behind a trio of three pointers from Miata Askew.
Askew lead the Lady Panthers with 18 points. Kourtney Alexander chipped in 14 points. Courtney Rhodes and Precious Williams finished with 10 points each.
"I am really proud of the girls and the way we played tonight but we have some areas that we still need to work," Kelly said.
The coach said she wants to see the Lady Panthers get stronger on the boards and continue to improve shooting free throws.
A full schedule next week will give Liberty a chance to build on their win against Beach.
"We have a tough week coming up in the Joe Greene Tournament in Savannah. We play Camden who is tough and also Bradwell and they are always a well coached, athletic team," Kelly said.
Liberty 58, Beach 33
LCHS 4 14 21 19-58
Beach 6 10 10 7-33