Liberty County High School’s basketball teams each had a split in home games against Jenkins and Richmond Hill.
Both teams were 4-1 going into Thanksgiving break. The next action for both teams is Dec. 6 at Richmond Hill.
The Lady Panthers suffered their first loss of the season, 39-33, on Tuesday against Richmond Hill.
Trading basket for basket during the first quarter, Liberty and Richmond Hill both used their press defenses effectively, which kept the shots down and the score low.
As the game progressed, however, ineffective shooting at the free-throw line helped Richmond Hill hold on to a slight lead. The Lady Panthers were only 10 of 30 at the line, while he Lady Wildcats were 14 of 29.
“We missed free throws and we missed the easy layups, and that is the bottom line,” Lady Panther coach Carolyn Kelly said.
Throughout most of the third and fourth quarters, the Wildcats led by five point. That lead was cut to two when Liberty’s Tia Fleming hit one of two shots from the line and Jaelyn James hit a 3-pointer with six minutes left in the game.
But the Wildcats went 8 of 12 at the line in the final quarter, while Liberty only shot 2 of 8 on free chances.
“When you miss that many free throws … you can’t beat a team that is also going to the free-throw line and they are making their shots,” Kelly said.
Fleming led Liberty with 13 points, while James had nine.
Kelly said she was a bit disappointed her guards didn’t drive the ball into the gap the way she designed, which would have created a few more scoring opportunities. She was pleased with how well her two freshmen continue to play.
“They played some key minutes for us and made some key plays,” Kelly said. “Ashanti Harris played as a post player at the middle-school level … we are moving her out because in the future we want her to be a true three player … and she is stepping up and doing exactly what we ask of her.”
RHHS: 9/ 8/10/12: 39
Liberty: 5/7/10/11: 33
On Saturday against Jenkins, senior guards Brianna Reece and Bryonna Graham combined for 13 steals as Liberty’s press defense generated 20 steals en route to the Lady Panthers’ 67-43 win.
The Lady Panthers built an early 18-9 lead, with 12 of those points coming from the inside game of Fleming and Kymberli Payno. They also controlled the boards and the lane for Liberty with Fleming pulling down nine rebounds and Payno blocking four shots.
Jenkins never overcame the early deficit and trailed Liberty, 41-18, going into the second half.
Liberty 18/23/10/16: 67
Jenkins 9/9/817: 43
Liberty scoring: Bryonna Graham 15, Tia Fleming 13, Ashanti Harris 10, Kymberli Payno 8, Jaelyn James 8, Brianna Reece 4, Dayza Ingram 4, Mattie Keith 2, Ticie Woulard 2, Navia Telfair 2.
Tuesday’s boys’ game was a barn-burner, with Richmond Hill staying within reach and trailing only by four points at the half. But Liberty made good use of some late-game steals to hold off the visitors, 68-54.
Freddie McSwain and Connor Bailey put on another display of slam dunks and alley-oops to pull ahead in the fourth quarter. McSwain scored 21 points. Richard LeCounte chipped in 15 points and Bailey added 14.
Daniel Wilder led the Wildcats with 24 points including five 3-pointers.
Liberty 17/6/15/30: 68
RHHS 11/8/13/22: 54
Coming off of a close victory against crosstown rival Bradwell the night before, the Panthers went up against a perennial Savannah power Jenkins on Saturday and fell just short, 71-66.
McSwain provided early offense for the Panthers, sinking 3 of 4 free throws for a 14-4 lead at the end of the first quarter. Liberty continued to add to its lead, but Jenkins used it athleticism and tempo to put in 21 points in the second quarter.
Liberty’s 35-25 halftime lead didn’t last until the end of the third quarter. Jenkins’ press forced six turnovers, and coupled with Warriors rebounds and a technical foul on Liberty, Jenkins tied the game at 40.
Liberty responded with a coast-to-coast layup by LeCounte to retake the lead. The Panthers flirted with a few scoring runs, but Jenkins’ defense and rebounding stifled any attempt. As the game closed in on the fourth quarter, Liberty faced foul trouble.
“Getting in foul trouble certainly didn’t help us, but we don’t have as a deep as bench as we need,” Liberty coach Willie Graham said.
Jenkins caught fire in the final minutes of the game, canning three treys to go up, 66-61. Mitchell bumped in a layup and LeCounte hit a 3-pointer with 24 seconds to make it 66-66.
The Warriors surged ahead on a layup. Liberty was forced to foul, and Jenkins connected on the free throws to seal the win.
Jenkins 4/21/21/26: 71
Liberty 14/21/12/19: 66
Liberty scoring: Conner Bailey 17, Davion Mitchell 17, Freddie McSwain 14, Richard LeCounte 11, JiShaun Harris 4, Jeremiah Bacon 2, Joshua Powers 1.