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Liberty splits with Burke Co.
lXavier Tunstall
Liberty Countys Xavier Tunstall drives against Burke County on Saturday at LCHS. - photo by John Wood

Liberty County split home games with Burke County on Saturday.
The Lady Panthers relinquished a 20-point lead to lose to Burke off a last-second put-back, 68-67. The Panthers’ game was the opposite, as Liberty topped Burke, 62-46.

Liberty’s Tia Fleming started the game on fire for the Lady Panthers, scoring 10 of her game-leading 27 points in the first quarter to help her team to a 21-9 first quarter lead for Liberty.
Burke started to come back, but Liberty still controlled the tempo en route to a 34-23 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Lady Panthers’ lead unraveled. The Lady Bears created a few sporadic turnovers in the first half. Beginning in the third quarter through the end of the game, however, Burke’s press forced key turnovers. Also, the Lady Panthers were 11 of 32 from the free-throw line, including missing the front end of 10 one-and-one foul shots.
“We just play didn’t play well at all. You cannot make the mistakes that we did and expect to win against teams. We have to get better mentally and physically,” Liberty County head coach Carolyn Kelly said.
Though most of Liberty’s turnovers came against the press, ball-handling miscues also were costly.
Burke finally closed the gap in the fourth quarter. With 11 seconds left, the Lady Bears went the length of the court and put up a final shot that fell short, grabbed their own offensive rebound and put it in for the win.
“We didn’t have the kind of heart and hustle that we needed tonight,” Kelly said. “We didn’t play with any intensity. Turnovers, missed free throws, not getting rebounds are all things we have to fix. We should have played with a large lead.”Liberty (4-4) hosts Long County on Saturday in a nonregion game.

Burke 68, Liberty 67
BC — 9/14/23/20: 68
LC — 21/13/18/14: 67
Liberty scoring — T. Fleming 27, B. Graham 9, J. James 9, K. Payno 8, A. Harris 5, B. Reece 5, N. Telfair 2.

The Panthers rolled early with good offensive decisions and strong defense. Liberty held a 28-20 margin and never looked back in the second half.
“We got out of the gate early. Burke is physical and athletic basketball team, but we made some easy shots and were able to keep a decent lead,” Liberty head coach Willie Graham said.
Liberty has been without senior guard Freddie McSwain since Thanksgiving. McSwain injured his meniscus during football and had surgery during Thanksgiving break. Though McSwain is progressing well, the Panthers have had to count on some of the younger players to step up more.
“Our two freshmen, Davion (Mitchell) and Richard (LeCounte), who are playing a lot with the varsity, are starting to learn the system. They are learning to play within the system and asking questions, so that is good for us,” Graham said.
Sophomore Jishaun Harris led the team with 16 points. Mitchell canned 13 points. Conner Bailey chipped in 11 points, and LeCounte finished with nine points.
Liberty moved to 6-2 on the season with the win. The Panthers host Long County on Saturday.

Liberty 62, Burke 46
LC — 18/10/17/17: 62
BC — 12/8/11/15: 46
Liberty scoring — J. Harris 16, D. Mitchell 13, C. Bailey 11, R. LeCounte 9, Jeremiah Bacon 7, Jerrell Taylor 5, J. Powers 1.

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