The Wayne County Yellow Jackets didn’t swarm into Liberty County High School as expected Friday night. Instead, the boys and girls from Jesup fluttered into the gym and fell in both games.
The Liberty girls took the sting out of Wayne County, winning 64-45, to snap a two-game losing streak. The Liberty boys were the ones who swarmed the floor, defeating the Yellow Jackets 78-48.
“We finally played much better as a team,” Lady Panther coach Carolyn Kelly said after the game. “If we can continue to play the way we did tonight for the remainder of the season, we should do well in the region.”
The Lady Panthers still struggled with the free throws, going 11-of-29 in the game, but improvement was evident in the lack of turnovers — something that had plagued the girls in the past two games.
Also apparent was sophomore Tia Fleming’s ability to provide her squad with a consistent inside game. When the Liberty girls set up their strategy, the Lady Jackets bit to the outside, leaving Fleming open for the easy shots. The 5-foot-10 forward did her best to grab rebounds and score on the put-backs. She finished the game with 22 points and shot 50 percent at the line. Helping Fleming on the inside was 6-foot tall Dazya Ingram. The junior forward came off the bench and tapped in nine points while Fleming rested her legs.
The Jackets were well-versed in keeping tabs on Bryonna Graham and Brianna Reece. Wayne County zoned in on the two guards but failed to account for Jaleyn James. The junior point guard took advantage of being open, knocking in a trey shot and scoring 12 points in the contest.
The win gives the Liberty girls their first Region 3A-AAAA victory. The girls sit at 9-9 overall and 1-2 in the region.
LCHS: 17 15 13 19 — 64
WAYNE: 11 11 12 11 — 45
Top scorers: Tia Fleming 22, Jaleyn James 12, Dazya Ingram 9, Kymberli Payno 8, Brianna Reece 6, Bryonna Graham 5 and Navia Telfair 2.
In the boys’ contest, the Yellow Jackets were caught sleeping in the first quarter and the Panthers’ speed and accuracy quickly boosted them to a 14-0 lead. Wayne County took a time-out to slow the tempo but only managed to score six points in the first quarter.
Liberty’s squad understood the importance of staying on its game since Wayne County does have a quick and sharp shooter in Krenwick Sanders. The football/basketball player committed to Wisconsin and once set a high-school playoff record by scoring five touchdowns in the first half of a state playoff game.
Sanders began to chip away at the Panthers’ lead and paced Wayne County with 12 points for the night. However, the Yellow Jackets’ reaction time was no match for the quick passing skills of Richard LeCounte, Freddie McSwain and Davion Mitchell. Like lightning, the ball sailed from player to player, eventually making its way to senior Conner Bailey. At 6-foot-5, Bailey easily chipped in 21 points to pace the boys.
As the Yellow Jackets fought back, Mitchell produced 10 of his 16 points in the third quarter to rebuild LCHS’ cushion. For Wayne County, it went downhill from there. The point spread was too much to chip away at.
The Panther boys are 14-4 and undefeated in the region at 3-0. On Tuesday night, the Liberty teams host Brunswick in non-region games. The Pirates account for two of the boys’ four losses this season.
The girls’ tip-off first at 6.
LCHS: 18 15 25 20 — 78
WAYNE: 6 11 17 14 — 48
Top scorers: Bailey 21, Mitchell 16, McSwain 10, LeCounte 8, Jishaun Harris 8, Milik Wallace 5, Xavier Tunstall 4, Joshua Powers, Leviticus Brown 2 and Dashawn Hudson 2