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Panther teams claim berths
Aaron Scott goes airborne to hit a shot in Tuesdays 49-33 win against South Effingham in the Region 2A-AAAA tournament. - photo by Photo by John Wood

The Liberty County girls’ basketball team claimed a spot in the state tournament by toppling second-seeded South Effingham, 73-62, in the second round of the Region 2-AAAA tourney Wednesday in Richmond Hill.
The Lady Panthers now control their own destiny moving into today’s semifinal matchup against Richmond Hill. The game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in Richmond Hill.
Liberty lost to Richmond Hill, 44-40, early in January and three weeks ago, 56-41. However, Liberty did not have Diamone Johnson — who scored 23 points in Wednesday’s game — in its lineup against the Wildcats.
“It’s our third time playing Richmond Hill this year. We know them well and know that we have to isolate Aliyah Johnson, who is their best scorer,” Lady Panthers head coach Carolyn Kelly said.
In addition to having Diamone Johnson for today’s game, Kelly now has a platoon system in place that recently has been serving Liberty well.
“We didn’t start playing so many kids until the last two weeks of the season, but it has definitely helped us since we started doing it. We are going to press them and keep fresh legs in so we can keep a fast pace going. We are going to have to take care of every possession,” Kelly said.
On Wednesday, South Effingham kept the game close throughout the first half. The Lady Mustang guards scored off the dribble and ball movement.
“Since South Effingham had one player that really was their scorer, we went with a box-and-one on her,” said Kelly. “But she was able to get some easy scoring opportunities and assists because we didn’t adjust the zone the way we needed to.”
Liberty increased its defensive pressure, which resulted in several turnovers. The Lady Panthers used their speed for several fastbreak layups.
“We went with a smaller lineup on the floor, which allowed us to be quicker and be able to get more steals,” said Kelly. “Diamone Johnson really stepped up big for us today, directing traffic on both ends of the floor and scoring some huge transition layups. She is able to help us in the post along with Kymberli (Payno) and grab rebounds too.”
Kelly praised the efforts of her team to attack the basket off the dribble against South Effingham.
“We didn’t shoot as well from the field today, but we ran the fastbreak pretty good, and we did a good job of driving to the basket on the baseline and in the lane,” Kelly said.
Brianna Reece scored 14 points for Liberty. Payno added 12 points and Courtney Rhodes contributed 11 points.

Boys’ game
The Liberty County boys’ basketball team overcame erratic defense to beat South Effingham, 49-33, in the first round of the Region 2-AAAA tournament Tuesday in Richmond Hill.
The Panthers, seeded third in the tourney, were scheduled to face second-seeded Evans Thursday in the second round at Richmond Hill. Results were unavailable at press time.
In Tuesday’s game, South Effingham was constantly moving the basketball, and the guards were able to dish off inside for easy scores. The Mustangs also scored from behind the arc.
“(Tuesday), we just didn’t play as well as should have. We had a horrible day shooting the basketball and didn’t play very much defense,” Liberty County head coach Willie Graham said.
Liberty slowed the ball down at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Panthers began to methodically move the basketball and took almost a minute and a half off the clock and got a layup from Sayvon Wilson. Liberty pulled away by outscoring the Mustangs 18-6 in the final period.
“We had struggled stopping them defensively and our guard play hadn’t been the best going into the fourth quarter. We decided we could move the ball and be patient and try to go for high percentage shots or at least draw a foul,” Graham said.
Wilson led Liberty with 14 points. Aaron Scott and Derrick Brooks finished with nine points apiece.

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