Liberty County High School’s boys’ basketball team suffered its first loss of the season, and the Lady Panthers fell as well Friday night at home.
In the boy’s game, Richmond Hill’s Spencer Buck and Kody Morales combined for 37 points to hand Liberty its first defeat of the season, 59-47.
“Being 11-0, you know eventually that you will get a loss. But to lose a sub-region game at home is tough,” Liberty County coach Willie Graham said.
Both teams traded each other basket for basket during the first half. Strong defense cut off both inside games and both teams relied on the perimeter jump shots for scoring.
The Cats played tough defense, getting a hand in the face of Liberty shooters. Richmond Hill guarded a one-point lead going into the locker at the half.
“The biggest thing that faced us at the half was the fact they were out rebounding us, and we knew that we had to keep them off the boards in the second half,” Richmond Hill coach William Altman said.
As the third quarter opened, Richmond Hill started to pick up steam. The Cats slowly started to pull away from Liberty. The Panthers’ Derrick Brooks scored off a layup to end a three-minute scoring drought late in the third quarter, but the Cats still held a 35-22 lead.
Liberty picked up some momentum in the third quarter when Brooks forced a steal and the Panthers picked up back-to-back layups to get to 40-33.
Brooks, who finished with a game-high 24 points, also hit two 3-pointers during the final minutes of the game, but could not overcome the Cats lead.
“They corralled inside but we knew that is what they would do to us. We need to do a better job with our inside game,” Graham said.
Liberty falls to 11-1 on the season and 1-1 in region 2A-AAAA. The Panthers travel to Brunswick Tuesday night. The Wildcats improve to 9-3 and 1-0 in 2A-AAAA.
“Tonight we played really well. Liberty is a super talented team, but it’s really nice to get a win in the sub-region on the road. I am really proud of the way we played as a team tonight. Spencer Buck has stepped up for us tonight and has the last four games beginning with the Savannah Holiday Tournament,” Altman said.
James Williams added eight points for the Cats.
Richmond Hill improves to 9-3 on the season and 1-0 in 2A-AAAA.
Despite a 20-point comeback in the fourth quarter, the Lady Panthers lost a 44-40 heartbreaker to region rival 2A-AAAA rival Richmond Hill. Liberty trailed early but closed the gap with strong defense in the second quarter to limit Richmond Hill to three points.
“We ran a combination of things on defense tonight. Defensively, I was happy the way we played tonight. We started out in a box and one to stop the Johnson girl and it worked,” Lady Panthers coach Carolyn Kelly said.
Kelly was especially impressed with how well her team played man-to-man against Richmond Hill. The defensive learning curve has been steep at times this season.
Liberty continues to be troubled by turnovers and missed free throws. Though the Lady Panthers were a respectable 12 of 19 from the free-throw line, the missed free throws came at the worse times in the game.
“We have got to do a better job of hitting free throws, especially when they count. We missed too many free throws in the fourth quarter tonight. We also missed too many layups. We probably missed 10 shots under the basket tonight,” Kelly said.
According to Kelly, the Lady Panthers have to increase their presence under the basket.
“We are getting the ball inside to the post players. They are getting a lot of touches, but we have to make stronger moves to the basket,” Kelly said.
Liberty falls to 3-4 and 0-2 in region play. Richmond Hill continues a strong start, improving to 10-1 overall and 1-0 in region 2A-AAAA standings.
Wofford College signee Aliyah Johnson led the Lady Wildcats with 16 points. Keera Jackson had 14 points.
Diamone Johnson put in 11 points for Liberty. Emoni Fisher chipped in nine points and Courtney Rhodes finished with seven points.
RHHS 44, LCHS 40
Liberty — Diamone Johnson 11, Emoni Fisher 9, Courtney Rhodes 7, Brianna Reece 4, Tiara Howard 4, Jasmina Smith 3.
Richmond Hill — Aliyah Johnson 16, Keera Jackson 14, Charmia Graham 8, Keisha Durham 2, Sydney Miller 2, Hannah Riley 2.
RHHS 59, LCHS 47
Richmond Hill — Spencer Buck 20, Kody Morales 17, James Williams 8, Kameron Myers 5, Zach Stegner 6, Daniel Wilder 2, T.K. Grigsby 1.
Liberty — Derrick Brooks 24, Michael Farrior 7, Sayvon Wilson 6, Aaron Scott 4, Conner Bailey 3, Tamontray Tucker 2, Melvin King 1.