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Lady Panthers loaded with speed, more
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Speed and experience will be  allies for the Liberty County High School girls’ basketball team this season, according to head coach Carolyn Kelly.
The Lady Panthers return five seniors to the varsity squad, including four starters and producers from last year’s team.
“And we have a fifth player that just came in that will be in our starting five,” Kelly said, noting that Courtney Rhodes, Diamone Johnson, Jasmina Smith and Tiara Howard likely will be her senior leaders.
Rhodes provides power on the inside, and Kelly said the addition of sophomore Kymberli Payno will fill the void left by Precious Williams, who graduated.
“She is going to fit right into our set,” Kelly said of Payno, the only 6-foot-tall player on the team. “We will not be asking for a lot of offense from her, but we do need to get her to the inside of our zone defense and rebound for us. With our four seniors coming back, we’ll get our scores from them.”
Kelly said Johnson appears to be near 100 percent after sustaining a knee injury last season.
“It was good for us that Diamone took time out this summer to rehab her knee,” Kelly said. “She did a lot of weight lifting on that leg. We think she is going to be in pretty good shape.”
The coach also is pleased with two new transfer students, Brianna Reece and Emone Fisher. Both were standout performers last season at First Presbyterian Christian Academy.
Reece led her team in scoring last year as a Lady Highlander.
“Once they learn how we do things here, they are going to be a big plus for us,” Kelly said.
Last season, the Panthers finished 10-13 overall and 4-6 in 2A-AAAA.
“Our team is not that big … but we have a lot of speed,” Kelly said at practice Wednesday afternoon. “We are looking for a lot of speed up front. … We are going to run the ball as much as we possibly can. We are coming back with our full squad from last year, and if we can keep our seniors healthy, we are going to be fine.”

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