The Liberty County High School basketball teams got a jump start on the regular season Friday and Saturday by competing in the Southside Classic Tournament at Windsor Forest High School.
The Lady Panthers used most of the bench to pummel Groves, 56-16. The boys’ contest was a bit more heated, but in the end, the Panthers pulled ahead for a 10-point victory and won 60-50.
Last season’s two top scorers were back in top form Friday as Lady Panthers Brianna Reece and Bryonna Graham set the pace, scoring 12 and nine points, respectively. Not far behind was the Lady Panthers’ other standout shooter, Jaelynn James, pitching in eight points in a game that had the Panther girls ahead from the start.
The game was quick and clean with Groves going two-of-five from the free-throw line. The Lady Panthers were four-of-six, drawing all their free throws in the first quarter. Tia Fleming chipped in seven points, and coach Carolyn Kelly split time with Kymberli Payno and Matti Keith, her two post players, to help the team develop their inside game, which is something they lacked last season when Keith was new to the team. Payno didn’t play last year.
With a clear lead secured, Kelly rotated her starters and checked her depth chart in preparation for the rest of the season. The Lady Panthers were scheduled to play Windsor Forest on Saturday afternoon. Results from that game were not available by press time.
Lady Panthers: 18/26/40/16: 56
It took a few minutes, but once the Panther boys settled into their offensive game, the athletes slowly chipped away at the Rebels to build a nine-point cushion in the first three minutes of the first quarter. However, the Rebels picked up the boards and capitalized on a few turnovers to narrow the margin. They trailed the Panthers, 30-25, at the half.
In the third quarter of play, the Liberty boys managed to stay ahead by four thanks to two trey shots by Jeremiah Bacon and Davion Mitchell.
In the final quarter of regulation, Connor Bailey secured the inside and chipped in eight points to give his squad the 10-point cushion needed to secure the win.
Bailey led the team in scoring, sinking 19 for the night, including three dunks, which got the crowd roaring. Jishaun Harris added 16, including two from behind the arch in the second quarter of the game. Mitchell had nine points in the contest, and Bacon finished with seven. Lamar Speight had three points from a trey shot that silenced the crowd as the Rebels seemed to be gathering momentum.
Point guard Joshua Powers managed the ball well, adding four points in the game, and Jerrell Taylor added two.
It was a good start considering one of coach Willie Graham’s guaranteed starters, Freddie McSwain, and his other standout player, Richard LeCounte, were in Albany still playing for the Panther football team. Other basketball players still on the grid-iron included Xavier Tunstall and Tracy White.
The Panther boys also were slated to play Windsor Forest on Saturday evening. Those scores were not available by press time.
Complete results from the Liberty teams’ second games and possible bracket play will be in Wednesday’s Coastal Courier.
Liberty: 16/14/12/18: 60
Groves: 10/15/13/12: 50