The third time was the charm for the Liberty County Panthers in the Gentlemen’s Classic at Statesboro. Losing in successive nights to Battery Creek, South Carolina and Brunswick, Liberty came out strong to defeat Osborne High School, 88-72. The Cardinals from Marietta traditionally play good basketball.
Osborne was one of the better teams in the tournament. The tourney’s top scorer through the first two games, Dahaire Haney, leads the Cardinals. The Cardinals displayed strong guard play in their first two games.
Though Osborne has guards, the Cardinals do not have the Panthers’ size, which was the difference in the game.
Liberty established a 17-14 lead at the end of the first quarter. Liberty’s inside game led the scoring, with three players finishing in double figures. Sophomore Jishaun Harris led with 22 points. Seniors Freddie McSwain had 20, and Connor Bailey put in 18.
McSwain, in his first games back from meniscus surgery over Thanksgiving break, picked up where he left off as a potent scoring threat.
“Playing in the Gentlemen’s Classic is always a great experience for us,” Panthers coach Willie Graham said. “We would have liked to have won more games but the key thing is this is giving us an opportunity early to understand what it’s like to play on the road three nights in a row.”
The Panthers open the second half of the season Friday on the road at Statesboro.
“We know Statesboro is going to be tough, and we need to be ready for them. They always have size and are very well-coached. So we have to work hard,” Graham said.
The Panthers will be without freshman guard Richard LeCounte against Statesboro and McIntosh County Academy. LeCounte will be in San Antonio to play in the inaugural U.S. Army East Bay Freshman All-American Football Game Sunday.
“After we play Statesboro, then we have a tough game with MCA and then play Long County Jan. 7, so this tournament has helped us get ready for the second half of the season,” Graham said.