The Panthers moved one step closer to their goal of finishing second in region 2A-AAAA as Liberty County downed visiting Ware County 62-55 Friday night.
The win gave the Panthers a sweep of the regular season series with the Gators. Early on it was the hot shooting of guard Shakur Cook that sparked Liberty’s offense.
Cook hit four 3-pointers in the first half and Michael Farrior nailed a 3 from the top of the key for the last shot of the second quarter to give Liberty a 36-30 lead at the half.
"Shakur had a great half shooting the ball from the 3 point line. He was definitely in the zone the first half," Liberty County coach Willie Graham said.
But it was clear the Gators weren’t about to go back to Waycross without a fight. After the Panthers moved out to an eight point lead late in the third quarter, Ware scored five points in 10 seconds off of a dunk and a 3-pointer to make it 46-43.
Ware scored the first basket of the fourth quarter and Liberty clung to a 46-45 lead before buckets by Melvin King and Cook allowed Liberty some breathing room.
The Panthers eventually managed to go up 52-45 and were able to take care of the ball down the stretch, find open looks and hit free throws.
Liberty had three players in double figures. Cook led all scorers with 18 points. King banked in 16 points. Farrior finished with 14 points.
Despite the win, Graham saw problems that need solving.
"We are still getting beat on the boards and not getting as much production from our inside game as we would like. We need to get our guards where they will follow their shot after releasing it they way Ware was doing it tonight. We got whistled for a couple of charges tonight and we just have to learn in that case to pull up and shoot the jump shot.
We also didn’t hit layups when we had 2-on-1 breaks and we need to convert on those opportunities," Graham said.
The Panthers are 14-7 overall and 5-4 in the region. Liberty will host Glynn Academy on Tuesday to close out the regular season.
"We have got to play with more consistency against Glynn. They don’t have a lot of size but they shoot the ball well and can jump on you quick and you will spend the rest of the game playing catch up. The most important thing for us to do against Glynn is to not be our own enemy," Graham said.
Liberty top scorers: Shakur Cook 18, Melvin King 16, Michael Farrior 14, Tucory Rhodes 7, Sayvon Wilson 5, Raekwon McMillian 1.