Coach Ronald Booker’s Beach Lady Bulldogs always have been a nemesis of Carolyn Kelly’s Lady Panthers and Friday night was no exception as Beach outlasted Liberty, 69-58.
“We missed too many free throws and we just turned the ball over. Our fouls sent them to the free-throw line too many times,” Kelly said.
Liberty’s first point came off a free throw from guard Diamone Johnson and then Beach took over.
The Lady Bulldogs were up 6-1 and split Liberty’s trap, scoring on several lay ups on the back end. Beach also took advantage of multiple Liberty turnovers and beat the Lady Panthers on the offensive boards for several second-point shot attempts.
Midway through the first quarter, Liberty started to liven up.
Tiara Howard had back-to-back scores to tie the game 14 in the last minute of the quarter.
The game remained tight in the second quarter. Both teams continued to play full court defense and trap. Liberty stepped up its defensive pressure with players charging the passing lanes to grab steals and force turnovers.
Beach was able to put together some runs and create scoring opportunities off of Liberty turnovers to lead 30-24 at the half.
Beach scored on a layup to begin the second half and then forced two more turnovers, but Liberty responded with steals and layups of their own. As the pace of the game continued to pick up, Liberty kept it close but Beach’s steady transition game kept a three-point lead, 39-36.
Liberty’s Johnson cut into the lane off a Beach turnover, scoring on a layup but she missed the free throw. Johnson added two free throws the next trip down the floor to cut the Beach lead 41-40. Beach then went on a nine-point run to go up 49-40 in the final two minutes.
The Lady Panthers were able to pick up a few stray balls and a pair of 3 pointers from Bryonna Graham kept the game at 58-51. Liberty’s Courtney Rhodes surged into the lane for a jump shot and added a free throw to make it a four-point game. But Beach’s aggressive defense and persistent transition game overpowered the Lady Panthers. In addition, Liberty was only three for eight from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t play as well as we should have down the stretch. We have got to get better mentally in tight games. Defensively, we need to do a better job. We never cut the baseline off all night,” Kelly said.
Liberty falls to 1-1 for the season and will return to Beach for the Joe Greene tournament Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Lady Panthers face Bradwell at 4 p.m. Tuesday and Northeast Macon on Wednesday.
Beach 69, Liberty 58
Liberty top scorers: Diamone Johnson 20, Courtney Rhodes 9, Bryonna Graham 8, Jasmine Smith 6, Brianna Reece 6, Tiara Howard 4, Lasha Richardson 3, Kymberli Payno 2.