The Liberty County High School boys’ basketball team now has turned a complete 180 degrees in Region 2A-AAAA action while both the boys’ and girls’ honored their senior basketball players with a sweep of the Brunswick Pirates on Friday night at home.
The boys managed to beat the top-seeded Pirates, 62-55, and the Lady Panthers downed the Lady Pirates, 68-59.
In the boys’ game the strategy was set from the beginning.
Panthers coach Willie Graham said he wants his players to be as aggressive as possible on defense but very patient and methodical on offense. That game plan has helped the Panthers win three straight.
Seeing time on the court was senior multi-sport athlete Melvin King, who used his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame to outmuscle Brunswick players.
King was one of three Panthers to score in double digits with 12 points. Senior Panther Sayvon Wilson paced the boys with 18 and sophomore Aaron Scott sank 15.
Liberty led by two at the close of the first and increased the lead by six at halftime. The boys built a 12-point cushion in the third but the Pirates started a press and sank a 3-pointer to cut the lead. A Pirate turnover and a quick pass to Scott gave the crowd a treat as he leapt for the slam dunk, bringing the crowd to its feet. But the officials called a foul and the Pirates hit both free throws to keep them relatively close as the third quarter ended with the Panthers up 43-34.
The Pirates stepped up the pace in the fourth, outscoring the Liberty boys by two. The Panthers made their fans sweat a bit when they missed four key free throws midway through the final period.
“I don’t know. I mean we practice them every day, but it didn’t show last night. We’ll go back to the drawing board again,” Graham said.
But the boys hit a few more layups, nabbed a turnover and consumed the clock to hang on for the win. The Pirates had only one region loss until Friday’s game.
The Liberty boys now are 16-4 overall, 3-4 in Region 2A-AAAA.
“It was good to get the win and we need to get as many region wins as we can, one at a time,” Graham said.
Wayne County beat Richmond Hill on Friday night and will play host to Liberty County on Tuesday in Jesup. It will be another critical contest that could change the region standings going into the final two games of the season.
“The whole team, they are good athletes and they are playing hard right now, playing good right now,” Graham said about the Yellow Jackets. “We have to go in and play consistently.”
Earlier, the Lady Panthers cranked up the offense to take a 35-19 lead going into the break.
The full press led to significant Lady Pirate turnovers and quick transition shots for the Liberty girls. Senior Diamone Johnson was back in action, but it was seniors Courtney Rhodes and Tiara Howard who lit up the scoreboard, scoring 12 and 11 points, respectively, in the game. Sophomore Brianna Reece added 12 points in the win.
Brunswick stepped up the pressure in the third quarter, scoring 27 points to the Lady Panthers’ 20 but it wasn’t enough to chip away the Liberty lead. The Lady Panthers improve to 8-7 overall and 2-4 in the region.
In between games, King, Wilson, DeAnte Bacon, Traymontray Tucker, Rhodes, Johnson, Howard and Jasmina Smith were honored for senior night.