For some, it’s exciting to see a player to hit a buzzer-beating shot. However, it’s a totally different feeling to be on the other end.
Liberty County experienced the latter when Crisp County’s Davion Harvey swished a 3-pointer as time expired to give the Cougars a 56-53 win Saturday at LCHS in a first-round matchup of the AAAA state playoffs.
Liberty’s Xavier Tunstall hit a pair of free throws in the final seconds to tie the game, 53-53. Crisp got the ball with 4.8 seconds left and drove down the floor, setting up Harvey’s game-winning shot and the Crisp County coaches’ impromptu happy dance across the floor.
“From the beginning, they played with much more of a sense of urgency than we did,” Liberty coach Willie Graham said. “They also played more as a unit than we did.” Crisp had eight 3-pointers and shot 11 of 11 from the free-throw line on the night and outscored Liberty 21-15 in the fourth quarter.
The teams matched each other basket for basket early until Crisp pulled ahead. Trailing 20-15 at the end of the first quarter, Liberty battled back to take a 27-26 lead at halftime.
Liberty’s Richard LeCounte took over in the third quarter, scoring the Panthers’ first four points of the period and also adding three free throws. However, the Panthers only added one more bucket in the quarter as they took a 36-35 lead into the fourth quarter.
Crisp’s outside shooting, paired with Liberty’s foul trouble, put the Panthers into a situation to use zone defense more, which the Cougars used to their advantage. Liberty also struggled with the Crisp press.
LeCounte led the Panthers scoring column with 17 points, and Freddie McSwain had 11 points.
Despite a 20-win season, the Panthers fell short of their goals, according to Graham.
“We finished 20 and nine, but no titles and a very brief run at the state,” Graham said.
The Panthers will lose post Conner Bailey and Freddie McSwain to graduation, but the majority of starters and others who had significant playing time were underclassmen, which should create a good base for next season.