The Liberty County High School basketball teams were swept at Richmond Hill on Tuesday.
The Panther boys dropped a 60-56 decision to the Wildcats, while in the girls’ game, the Lady Panthers also lost by four points, 48-44.
Liberty County hosts Statesboro starting at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Liberty County took a seven-point lead in the first quarter, but the Wildcats answered, tying the game at 16-16 for the half and outscoring Liberty, 16-6, in the third quarter.
Despite scoring 22 points in the fourth quarter, the Lady Panthers couldn’t overcome their deficit.
Lady Panther Tia Fleming led the team in scoring with 17 points and also had 10 rebounds. Jaelynn James added 13 points, including two 3-pointers. Dazya Ingram led in rebounds with 11.
Lady Panther coach Carolyn Kelly said they still are looking for the younger girls to pick up and help carry the load currently shared by Fleming and James.
“In these last five games, what I’ve tried to do is rotate in a bunch of these young girls to see if we can come up with a system or a group of kids that will be able to work together,” she said. “We have been right there in these ball games … able to stay close against these teams we are playing, and while there has been some improvement, we are still lacking in some leadership.”
Kelly said Fleming and James are doing what is expected from them, being the two most-experienced players on the team. She is looking to see which of her younger wing players will start to make a push in helping to establish an overall offense.
“These kids don’t have the confidence yet to know when to attack the basket, when to score and when not to score … that is where we are falling short,” she said. “Tia and Jaelyn cannot score enough points on their own to be able to win games. We have to have these other players start contributing.”
The Lady Panthers are 1-4.
The Panthers were one player down as they tipped off against the Wildcats.
After receiving two technical fouls in the Bradwell game held before Thanksgiving, Richard LeCounte had to sit the bench Tuesday to serve a one-game suspension.
Panther coach Willie Graham didn’t suppress his disappointment regarding the situation.
“He showed his immaturity and got thrown out for one game, being the Richmond Hill game, and that really cost us,” he said. “He is a good athlete and we could have had him on the floor.”
The coach said that meant his other players needed to step up their game — and for a while, it appeared they did.
The game stayed close as the Wildcats had a four-point lead that dwindled to a one point at the half. A strong close to the third quarter for the Wildcats helped seal the win. Liberty tried to close the gap and outscored Richmond Hill by two in the fourth, but couldn’t overcome the deficit.
“Down the wire, we made some costly turnovers and made mistakes … every situation where they could catch us unbalanced they used to their advantage, and every situation where we had a chance to capitalize on the opportunity, we didn’t,” Graham said.
The coach added that the Wildcats made free throws while his players missed a few they should have clinched.
The Panthers’ Davion Mitchell, considered by All-Metro Hoops owner and Atlantic Celtics coach Horace Neysmith as a top prospect for the class of 2017, again led the Panther boys with 16 points. Milik Wallace and Jishaun Harris each added 13 points.
Richmond Hill’s Isaiah Hill knocked in 21 points and Montrell Washington added 20.
The Panthers are 3-2.
Lady Panthers 13|3|6|22=44
Lady Wildcats 6|10|16|16=48
Tia Fleming 17, Jaelynn James 13, Dazya Ingram 6, Tiara Ramsey 4, Infinity Spencer 2, Kiara Edwards 1, Jasmine Brooks 1