Errors plagued the Liberty Panther girls as they fell to McIntosh County Academy 60-58 at home Saturday night in a game that came down to the final ticks of the clock.
Blame it on a lack of focus, Liberty coach Carolyn Kelly said.
“Right now we are just not focusing the way we should. We are making too many mental mistakes on both ends of the floor. I think tonight should be a good lesson for us. You have to show up every night ready to play regardless of the opponent,” she said.
McIntosh County came out of the gate gunning early and went on several runs in the first quarter. Liberty was playing with an adjusted starting lineup because Kelly wanted to see where her depth lies as her ball club prepares for Region 2A-AAAA play.
“We wanted to see what kind of depth we had so we juggled the line up a little. MCA is a non-region game and we need to know who is going to be able to help us as we get deeper in the region,” she said.
Liberty mounted a comeback to trail the Lady Bucs 18-15 in the second quarter. Lady Panther guard Tiara Howard cut into the lane for a basket, was fouled and canned the free throw to give Liberty its first lead, 28-27, in the final two minutes of the second quarter.
The Lady Panthers went into a man-to-man press and forced turnovers but could not capitalize on them. But the Lady Bucs did not score, allowing Liberty to take a 35-27 halftime lead.
“I thought we could protect the lead in the second half. We did get in foul trouble early in the third quarter, which hurt us but they had three starters foul out. They just outhustled us in the last quarter,” Kelly said.
Liberty clung to the lead until the Lady Bucs finally pried it away from them in the last minute of the third quarter and it was a back-and- forth contest from there.
Lady Panthers post Kimberly Payno scored on an inside move to make the score 49-49 midway through the last quarter. The lead changed several times in the final minutes of the game.
Howard was injured in a head-to-head collision with a Lady Bucs player with 1:54 to go, stopping the game. When play resumed MCA took a 58-56 lead, but Liberty tied the game in the final 15 seconds.
MCA forced a jump ball and the possession arrow was in their favor, setting up the game-winning basket in the final seconds of the game.
Payno led all Liberty scorers with 12 points. Courtney Rhodes and Precious Williams each finished with 10 points. Jasmina Smith and Howard chipped in 9 points each.
Liberty falls to 8-5 for the year and hosted Brunswick in a Region 2A-AAAA contest Tuesday night.
“Brunswick is going to be quick. They have some very good shooters and strong guards. We are going to have to be ready play,” Kelly said before the game.
MCA 60, Liberty 58
Liberty top scorers: Kimberly Payno 12, Courtney Rhodes 10, Precious Williams 10, Jasmina Smith 9, Tiara Howard 9, Catherine Scaggs 4, Bryonna Graham 3