The Liberty County High School boys’ and girls’ basketball teams rebounded from Friday’s losses to Richmond Hill by sweeping McIntosh Academy on Saturday at home.
In the girls’ contest, Liberty used a 13-point third quarter to surge ahead of McIntosh County Academy, 62-47.
“We used Friday night’s game against Richmond Hill as a teaching point,” Liberty County girls’ coach Carolyn Kelly said. “I explained to the team that we have to run full-court pressure from the beginning and that pressure will create turnovers for our transition game.”
McIntosh freshman Makhala Jackson ignited the Lady Bucs for 15 points in the first half, but Liberty was able to keep a 30-27 lead.
“McIntosh’s post player scored from all of over the place, so we decided (to go) to a box-and-one, and it worked for us, especially in the third quarter,” Kelly said.
The Lady Panthers worked hard on defense to create several turnovers that became transition layups. Building off the strong defense, Liberty also controlled the boards and showed patience at the end of the third quarter with ball movement. Liberty continued to ravage the Lady Bucs on both ends of the floor, reeling off a 12-point run midway through the fourth quarter. Defensively, Liberty didn’t allow McIntosh to score until there were four minutes left in the game.
Liberty’s Tiara Howard led all scorers with 17 points and collected six steals.
Diamone Johnson finished with 11 points, and Courtney Rhodes had 10 points for the Lady Panthers.
Despite the win, Kelly still was concerned with her team’s apparent inability to make free throws. Liberty was 13 for 35 against McIntosh.
“We have got to make more free throws. It’s been something that we have battling all season long, but we are going to keep working and get where we can hit free throws when they really matter in game,” Kelly said.
Liberty moves to 4-4 on the season and will travel to Brunswick on Tuesday night for a Region 2A-AAAA game.
“Brunswick is probably one of the best teams in the region behind Statesboro,” Kelly said. “They are quick and strong and have a lot of depth. It will take everything that we have to beat them.”
Panthers coach Willie Graham’s emotions ran the gamut as his team trailed McIntosh for three quarters. But Graham finally felt relief after Liberty County’s 60-56 victory.
“Well, I can say that at least we got through it and got out of the game with a win,” he said.
McIntosh controlled the tempo throughout the first half. The Bucs were able to score off the dribble and around the perimeter.
Liberty gave McIntosh extra opportunities with turnovers and a weak presence on the boards.
Graham also used wholesale substitution during the first half, trying to find the best five to put on the floor. The Panthers trailed McIntosh, 35-20, at the half.
“The big adjustment we had to make at the half was cleaning up the defense. We were not moving enough like we needed to, and McIntosh was beating us backdoor and we were standing around watching the ball when they were cutting to the basket,” Graham said.
In the second half, Liberty added some defensive pressure, allowing the Panthers to create some turnovers and use the transition game to cut into McIntosh County Academy’s lead.
The Panthers put together a solid third quarter and increased defensive pressure, which sparked the turnaround.
In the fourth quarter, Liberty’s Derrick Brooks scored 13 of his game-high 16 points.
“We had 21 turnovers in the game, but we really picked up the defensive intensity in the fourth quarter,” Graham said. “Deante Bacon was able to get some steals, which allowed us to get some good offensive possessions. The fourth quarter was the only time that we had more steals than turnovers.”
Aaron Scott paced the Panthers with 15 points. Sayvon Wilson finished with 11 points.
Liberty moves to 12-1 on the season and will take on Region 2A-AAAA foe Brunswick on Tuesday night at Brunswick.
The Pirates are 9-2 overall and 2-0 in the region.
“Brunswick is definitely going to be a good basketball team. They have a strong inside tandem and solid guard play to go with it. I would have thought that Ware County, with what they had returning, would have been one of the best in the region, but Brunswick is coming on strong,” Graham said.