Third seeded Liberty lost to No. 1 Effingham County, 43-40, in the Region 2-AAAA tournament Saturday afternoon at Richmond Hill.
The Rebels had been upset by Ware County, 47-38, in Friday’s semi-finals.
Liberty scored first and led 8-0 early in the first quarter before Effingham finally got on the board. The Panthers played an aggressive defense, creating turnovers for its transition game.
Tamontray Tucker nailed a 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter, giving Liberty a 15-8 lead.
The Panthers attack continued in the second quarter. Liberty continued to throw out of its disciplined system. Effingham coach Donnie Arrington took timeouts trying to get his team back in sync. Liberty answered each of those timeouts with scores.
“We really started to control the tempo more in the second quarter,” Liberty head coach Willie Graham said. “We stayed within the game plan of getting Effingham to force shots, and we also were able to pull down some big boards.”
Liberty led, 26-22, at the half. The third quarter decided the game. Effingham started to play tougher defense and used speed and strong ball movement, outscoring Liberty, 17-6.
“We just got away from what we were doing that made us successful in the first half,” Graham said. “We started trying to freelance offensively instead of moving the ball and staying patient. Being patient with basketball isn’t glamorous but it has worked for us.”
Trailing Effingham 43-40 with five seconds left in the game, Tucker grabbed a steal, but Rebels sophomore standout Jakeenan Gant blocked a last shot attempt.
Sayvon Wilson and Aaron Scott put in 12 points each. Michael Farrior had six points. “We just slipped on defense. We have to learn to play within the system for four quarters. Playing against Gant, who is 6’7” will help us though because Northside has a 6’10” player that plays for them,” the coach said.
Liberty will travel to Northside Warner Robbins Saturday for the first round of the AAAA state tournament. The Eagles finished the season 21-5.
Game time is yet to be decided and Friday’s Courier will have more about the playoffs.
Effingham 43, Liberty 40
Effingham 8 14 17 4-43
Liberty 15 11 6 8-40
Liberty top scorers: Sayvon Wilson 12, Aaron Scott 12, Michael Farrior 6, Raekwon McMillian 4, Tamontry Tucker 3, Deante Bacon 2, Conner Bailey 1