Three Lady Panthers scored in double digits to lead Liberty County High School to a 72-49 win Friday night against Tattnall County in a nonregion girls’ basketball contest.
Lady Panther Diamone Johnson led the Liberty girls with 19 points. Tiara Howard chipped in 15 and Courtney Rhodes added 10 in an offense that combined patience and speed to offset a taller Tattnall County squad.
Defensively, the girls attacked the boards, grabbed steals and covered their opponents, holding the Warriors to 14 points in the first half.
“Today was one of our better games as far as playing together as a team, especially on defense,” Lady Panthers coach Carolyn Kelly said. “We’ve been struggling on our defense, the shift in the defense, knowing how to be aggressive on the ball, so tonight it was an overall performance on defense than I have not seen all year long — all five players working on the same course.”
Kelly said the Lady Panthers are slowly perfecting the 2-3 zone defense and used the strategy until the start of the third period. She made a decision to try something on the fly, leading Tattnall to score nine unanswered points.
“At halftime we discussed coming out and staying in the same 2-3 zone but when we got on the court I told them we were going to switch right now,” she said. “I went to a defense we have not had a whole lot of practice with, a 1-3-1 and we had players that didn’t understand where they were supposed to be. And that was the breaking point … then I immediately came out of it.”
Tattnall managed to score 21 points in the fourth period but by then, the Liberty starters were resting and Kelly was playing her bench. Her substitutes fared well and the Lady Panthers never relinquished their lead.
The Lady Panthers were scheduled to host the Long County Lady Tide on Saturday night.
The Lady Panthers dominated the Lady Tide earlier, winning 73-24. Kelly said if her squad gets an early lead she plans to focus on what she considers the weaker link on her team.
“Our main focus is to get better on the defensive end,” she said. “And when I say ‘better,’ I mean everyone knowing where they are supposed to be and when they are supposed to be there. And hopefully, if we get off to a good start, we can get some of my younger players out there and give them some playing time because that is really going to be the success of this team, how many players you can play down the stretch.”
Unlike the Panthers or the Bradwell girls’ squad, the Lady Panthers have one more game against Beach on Dec. 10 before they are on a three-week game hiatus for the holidays. Kelly said she is somewhat concerned about the lull between games but added she plans to have a few practice sessions to make sure her players stay competitive when the New Year rings in their Region 2A-AAAA games. On Jan. 6, Region 2A-AAAA action starts at home against Richmond Hill.
“We will have a few intrasquad scrimmages and we will do a few small things in the gym so we will be ready,” she said.