Looking more poised than it did Friday against Statesboro, the Liberty County High School boys’ basketball team had no trouble defeating McIntosh County Academy, 83-71, on Saturday at home.
On the other hand, the Lady Panthers continued to struggle as they juggled players to find the right combination while falling to the Lady Buccaneers, 76-55.
In the boys’ game, both teams came out strong defensively and managed to keep the fouls down and hold each other out of scoring position. Halfway through the first quarter, Liberty (5-9 overall, 0-1 in region) was up a mere 5-0.
The Panthers got a few steals and added seven unanswered points before the Bucs finally dropped in a layup near the close of the first quarter. By that point, the Liberty boys had set the pace and ran away from the Buccaneers, going into the locker room with a comfy 40-24 halftime lead and never letting up.
Freddie McSwain set the pace, scoring 23 points. Michael Farrior chipped in 19, and Josh Powers added 14.
On the girls’ side, Lady Panther Coach Carolyn Kelly said the girls are playing well despite having to adjust the starting lineup since sharp-shooting guard Emone Fisher moved away.
“Of course, we are missing one of our key players. And when you are missing a player like Emone, who did a lot for the team especially as a leader and role model … we knew we were going to have a rough time in the beginning of this second half,” she said. “Until we can find someone who could fill her spot and step in and do the things she’s done … It’s going to take some time.”
The Lady Panthers stayed on MCA’s heels, trailing by one at the close of the first quarter. But the girls lost their focus and strayed from Kelly’s plan in the second and third quarters, costing them points.
“Right now, and whether it’s due to being young or just not understanding, my team is just not sticking with the strategies I draw out for them,” Kelly said. “What we are working on is just trying to get the ball to the post players, and they stay with the plan for a while, but then, for some reason, they start trying to shoot the ball again from the outside.
“For example, against Statesboro we were able to start to come back by getting the ball to the post like we planned from the beginning, and it worked for us for a period of time, and then they started taking shots from the outside and that threw our momentum off.”
As for Liberty’s post player, freshman Latia Fleming, she has managed the pressure well and is making the shots Kelly needs and wants for her game plan. Against Statesboro, Fleming led with 14 points. On Saturday against the Buccaneers, Fleming dropped in 21 points.
“Latia is doing extremely well, and she is a player that we knew was going to continually get better,” Kelly said. “She works hard on the defensive end and is really giving us the things we have been practicing on the offensive end as far as scoring, but we still need to work with her as far as boxing out.”
Fortunately for Kelly, she still has team leaders in Brianna Reece and Bryonna Graham. They chipped in 14 points apiece Saturday and have been consistent all season. Freshman Olivia Legette has height and is helping the inside game as well, and Jaelyn James has demonstrated her ball-handling abilities at guard to provide Kelly some depth on a young, inexperienced varsity bench.
The Lady Panthers were set to play Long County on Tuesday at home. Results were unavailable at press time. Liberty travels to South Effingham on Friday for a 3A-AAAA sub-region game at 7 p.m.
The Lady Panthers are 2-6 overall and 0-1 in the region.
MCA 16 22 24 14 – 76
LCHS 15 11 13 16 – 55
LC: Latia Fleming 21,
Bryonna Graham 14,
Brianna Reece 14
MCA: Makhala Jackson 31