The Liberty County boys’ basketball team was denied its ninth straight win Friday as Statesboro narrowly beat the Panthers, 39-37, during LCHS’s senior-night game.
In Friday’s first game, however, the Lady Panthers played like a well-oiled machine, taking down the Lady Devils, 53-47.
The boys’ game seemed to go by in a flash. And, at least for the first half, Statesboro’s quick-paced game threw off the Panthers.
“We got out of tempo in the first half,” Panther coach Willie Graham said, adding they played without senior Freddie McSwain for the first half of the game. “We got out of character in the first half and got down. We got back in character that second half, and we got back in the game but not quite enough to get over them.”
It was easy to see something was way off for the home team, as the Panthers were held to only five points in the first quarter while the Blue Devils scored 20. The Liberty defense stiffened in the second quarter, holding Statesboro to two points, but the Devils still held the Liberty boys to 11 points. Statesboro led, 22-16, at intermission. Liberty started to click once McSwain was on the floor. He ended the game leading the team in points with 15, the only Panther to hit double digits in scoring.
It was the first region loss for the Panthers, but it was a big one, as there are only four teams in their sub-region.
“We lost to the team that was in second place, so now we are tied with them in the sub-region,” Graham said, adding both schools still have to play Wayne County and South Effingham one more time.
“I hope we learned about the mistakes we made and something about coming in and preparing for big games … preparing for any game,” he said.
LCHS — 5/11/12/9: 37
SHS — 20/2/7/10: 39
Liberty senior Kymberli Payno had a big night, scoring 17 points to pace the girls. Senior Brianna Reece had 13 points in the contest.
Junior Jaelynn James and sophomore Tia Fleming each scored nine points. James nailed a 3-pointer as Statesboro started to make a small run in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Panthers shot 50 percent at the line, a slight improvement from previous games. From the minute the game started, the Lady Panthers displayed a tenacity they lacked earlier in the season.
Maybe it’s because they realized they are sitting at 2-2 in Region 3A-AAAA, which was second to last in the sub-region standings.
The Lady Panthers were quick on their feet, methodical in their passing and aggressive.
The girls showed heart and a willingness to make an impact which could help them in the sub-region when they play South Effingham again in roughly two weeks.
The Lady Panthers improved to 10-10 overall and 2-2 in the region.