It was an all-out physical battle between the Liberty Lady Panthers and Richmond Hill in the first girl’s Region 2-AAAA semi-finals Friday afternoon.
Richmond Hill sank four free throws in the final minute to edge Liberty, 44-39.
“Defensively, we played really well,” Liberty County Panthers Head Coach Carolyn Kelly said. “I thought that we did a good job with our full-court pressure. We just didn’t make our free throws today.”
The Lady Panthers took an early lead, but Richmond Hill fought back and held a 14-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams banged under the basket for every rebound and dove for loose balls. Throughout the game, each offensive possession was treated as it may have been the team’s last.
Richmond Hill clung to a 21-20 lead at the end of the half. The Lady Wildcats played a 2-3 zone most of the game defensively, forcing Liberty to rely on scoring off of the dribble or shooting long jump shots.
“Richmond Hill worked most of the game out of 2-3 zone completely taking away anything in the lane or allowing us to be able to work our post game. We did not do a very job of cutting the zone and getting the movement to beat the zone,” Kelly said.
The lead changed several times during the second half. When Richmond Hill would score Liberty would match it. Liberty was able to force several turnovers with its full-course pressure, but could not convert those into transition lay-ups.
In the final minutes of the fourth quarter Richmond Hill had built up a 40-32 lead. Liberty’s Jasmina Smith hit a jump shot to cut it to 40-34. Richmond Hill got called for a traveling violation, setting up a three-pointer from Panther Emoni Fisher to make it a three-point game.
Wofford signee Aliyah Johnson took over, sinking four free throws in the last minute for Richmond Hill.
“Overall I was really pleased with the effort. We just didn’t hit our free throws when we needed too and we didn’t attack their zone hard enough. If we win in the consolation game tomorrow we will be a three seed. The only real difference in a two and three seed is that a three has to travel,” Kelly said.
Read full coverage of Saturdays games in Wednesday’s Courier.
R Hill 44, Liberty 39
R Hill 14-7-7-16-44
Liberty — Courtney Rhodes 9, Emoni Fisher 7, Kymberli Payno 6, Jasmina Smith 6, Diamone Johnson 6, Bryonna Graham 5.