Savyon Wilson scored 25 points and went seven for eight at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to help Liberty County defeat Wayne County 64-60 on Tuesday night.
The Panthers, reeling from a Jan. 28 loss to Region 2A-AAAA power Brunswick, beat Wayne County for the second time this season.
"Tonight we played better. We are still missing some free throws and not boxing out as well as we should, but we are getting better," Liberty County coach Willie Graham said.
Wayne County forced the Panthers to play from the perimeter and score off the dribble and movement. Liberty countered with a smaller, quicker lineup that effectively broke down the Yellow Jackets’ man-to-man defense.
"We had to move some personnel around. We wanted to stay big but then they went small and quick so we moved to a smaller, quicker lineup, too. By going to the quicker lineup, we were able to pressure them more because Wayne did shoot a lot of 3-pointers," Graham said.
Wayne held an 18-15 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Panthers steadily clawed their way back. Liberty’s Melvin King was fouled in the second quarter but before he went to the line Wayne also ended up with a technical foul.
King sank his free throws and Michael Farrior connected on the first technical shot to tie the game at 26.
Wilson scored on the ensuing possession and Liberty took a 28-26 lead and added to it.
The Panthers went into the locker room up 38-29.
Wayne did not regain the lead until the beginning of the fourth quarter. Liberty battled back and the fourth quarter remained nip and tuck. Leading 63-59, a Liberty foul put Wayne at the free-throw line but they only came away with one point. The Yellow Jackets then got the ball off an errant pass but could not create a scoring drive. Wilson hit a free throw in the final seconds to ice the game and give Liberty the win.
Wilson led all scorers with 25 points. Farrior finished with 17 points, and Shakur Cook had nine points.
Tuesday night’s win breathes new life into the Panthers region hopes as they get ready to host Ware County tonight.
"We are looking at the possibility of a being a No. 2 seed. If we win out it will be a tie between us and Glynn for the No. 2 seed and then we will see where the tie-breaker will put us. Ware is going to be better this time. They have a big man who is eligible now. As a team they have been playing much better, too," Graham said.
Liberty top scorers:Sayvon Wilson 25, Michael Farrior 17, Shakur Cook 9, Tucory Rhodes 7, Melvin King 4, Deante Bacon 2