Liberty opened region 3A-AAAA play Friday at home against the Statesboro Blue. The Blue Devils swept the series, defeating the Lady Panthers, 51-45, and the Liberty boys, 57-46.
The Lady Panther offense came out flat-footed for the first half of the game, managing only 14 points before intermission. Also putting LCHS at a disadvantage, sharp-shooter Emone Fisher moved away from the area during the holiday break.
But the Lady Panthers still have depth and young talent. Freshman Latia Fleming played the inside well, dropping in 14 points — most in the third quarter — to help the Liberty girls battle back and score 21 points during that period. Brianna Reece and Bryonna Graham also stepped it up to help close the gap. Reece scored eight of her 10 points in the third quarter and gave the Liberty girls their first lead of the night with a trey shot right at the buzzer, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
The Lady Devils’ Caja Williams kept her team ahead with good ball control and accurate shooting, scoring 17 points, including a three-pointer. Her teammate, Tanice Johnson, added 15 points, most in the final quarter, allowing the Blue Devils to hold the six-point advantage for a win.
The Lady Panthers fall to 2-5 overall and 0-1 in the region.
The Liberty boys’ seven turnovers in the first quarter allowed the Blue Devils to run up a 15-4 lead.
“We just did ourselves in that first quarter,” Panther coach Willie Graham said. “We settled down a little after that, but when you’re down 15-4 in the first quarter, then we had to chase them all night.”
Graham said it was the worst turnover ratio his team has had in one quarter.
Blue Devil Zaquavian Smith and Panther Freddie McSwain are Coastal Crew Rebels summer league teammates, but Friday’s battle clearly was a fight to see who could lead his team to victory.
McSwain scored 20 points for the Panthers, but Smith’s 19 were sufficient to maintain the lead.
The Blue Devils kept a quick pace and despite the Panthers’ effort to slow things down, Statesboro controlled the game and clock.
“We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do, and we are still searching for our tempo and our game,” Graham said.
The Liberty boys are 4-9 overall and 0-1 in the region.
The Panthers were scheduled to host a non-conference game Saturday against rival McIntosh County Academy out of Darien.
Graham anticipated another run-and-gun style of play from the Buccaneers and told his players Friday night to prepare.
“I told them last night to go home and drink plenty of water because they had another runner,” he said. “MCA is a fast team. They have a big kid inside, so it will be difficult for Freddie pulling the inside. We need to create some turnovers and get needed scores.”
Girls’ box scores
LCHS: 6 8 21 10 – 45
SHS: 14 12 8 17 – 51
LCHS top scorers: Latia Fleming 14, Brianna Reece 10, Bryonna Graham 9, Jaelyn James 7 and Olivia Legette 5
SHS top scorers: Caja Williams 17, Tanice Johnson 15 and Kyera Whitaker 13
Boys’ box scores
LCHS 4 13 14 15 – 46
SHS 15 11 18 13 – 57
LCHS top scorers: Freddie McSwain 20, Michael Farrior 10, Jishaun Harris 6, Lamar Speight and Milik Wallace 3 each and Jeremiah Bacon and Xavier Tunstall 2 each
SHS top scorer: Zaquavian Smith 19