Both the Liberty County boys and girls suffered losses in Richmond Hill last week. Tuesday, Liberty avenged those losses, beating the Wildcats at home.
The Lady Panthers held on to win 57-52. The boys pulled off a 45-37 win.
Four Lady Panthers scored in double digits, producing 52 of the Lady Panthers’ 57 points. Brianna Reece led with 17 and Emone Fisher hit four trey shots and a free-throw to rack up 13 points. Freshman Latia Fleming put up 12 points and Bryonna Graham chipped in 10.
“She is going to be an extraordinary player by the time she is a junior and senior,” Lady Panthers coach Carolyn Kelly said about Fleming. “She played at the middle school level and she just has some great work ethics. She is extremely strong, she hasn’t quite adjusted to the defense and she gets frustrated, but that is expected of a freshman playing against a senior.
“The thing she has that is difficult to teach is heart.”
Kelly said she had two freshmen playing the posts and two juniors, transfer students still learning her system, playing against Richmond Hill. But the girls are eager to learn and have managed to play as a unit.
Helping them learn the system are veterans Reece, Fisher and Graham.
“I was really impressed with our kids because we know there are going to be some ups and downs right now,” Kelly said. “We’ve been working on teaching them defense, especially our more inexperienced players. How to chip away and box somebody out and last night, because Richmond Hill is so strong in post play, we pushed them out to a half-court press.”
Kelly said that made it difficult for the Wildcats to get the ball down front and kept the ball in the hands of her more experienced guards.
“I knew that Jaelyn James, Brianna and Bryonna and Emone could hold down the four up front,” Kelly said.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Liberty was up 42-35, but Richmond Hill had more rebounds and stepped up the pace to tie 43-43.
The Lady Panthers pulled away in the final minutes, capitalizing on two quick steals and a free-throw to win 57-52. The girls are 2-2 and host Brunswick tonight at 6:30.
Last week, the Wildcats sent the Panthers home, winning 47-40. On Tuesday, Liberty sent Richmond Hill packing, 45-37.
“They beat us by 7 down there and we beat them by 8 here and the biggest difference is we only had eight turnovers,” Panther coach Willie Graham said. “I think we had 22 turnovers at Richmond Hill last week. We also shot 69 percent from the free-throw line, our second highest percentage this year.”
Graham said his team was also able to slow the pace with a zone defense instead of man-to-man. That cut his players’ fouls
“Richmond Hill is pretty much a half-court team. They didn’t exert a lot of full-court pressure, very little if any,” Graham said. “So they played to our strength, which is a slow pace.”
Senior Michael Farrior scored 13 points as did first year player junior Freddie McSwain. McSwain has consistently provided quality minutes and double digit scoring, giving Graham a second spark when needed.
“This was probably Michael’s best game overall, but he is still not where we thought he would be,” Graham said. “We are not getting the performance on either end of the floor that we thought we would get so we have a long ways to go and a lot of tweaking to do.”
The boys host Brunswick tonight at 8, and Graham said they are an aggressive team with several veterans.
“They will play a faster pace, so that is what we are going to have to manage,” he said. “They will press and they will run and we have to try and control the tempo.”
The boys are 1-6 overall.
Liberty boys 8|9|14|14 — 45
R Hill boys 4|15|7|11 — 37
Liberty girls 18|11|13|15 — 57
R Hill girls 10|14|11|17 — 52