Looking to go up against the only team that had beat them this year, the Liberty County Panthers have made their way to the Region 3AAA tournament championship game after defeating host school, West Laurens, 60-53, Friday night. The boys were set to face Washington County yesterday at 8:30 p.m.
The Lady Panthers suffered a one-point loss against Baldwin meaning the girls would play for either third or fourth place on Saturday. Baldwin beat the girls 42-41.
Panther coach Willie Graham said his boys got off to a slow start but were able to bounce back and lead by 9 at the break. He said his team played balanced offense but, "Probably the most disturbing thing was our defense broke down in the second half."
He said West Laurens did their best to slow the Panthers’ favored fast pace tempo. The coach said when that happens his team tends to get impatient.
Near the end of the third quarter it was a 3-point game with the boys up 46-43. The coach said the defense re-ignited toward the end of the game."We were able to hold on and get out of there with a win," Graham said. "Jordan McRae had a good fourth quarter, scoring wise. He was in foul trouble going into the fourth. He had four fouls and had to sit for most of the third and when he went back in the fourth he was able to play through without fouling out. We had balanced scoring from our big three, as I call them."
Graham’s "big three" are Greg Richardson, Rion Brown and Jordan McRae who hit double digits against the Raiders.
The boys had to face WACO, who beat Baldwin to get into the finals, and the coach said he knows the Golden Hawks will be fired up for the game.
"They are going to give it everything they’ve got in this game," he said. "And they’ll be nothing left in the tank when it’s over."
Richardson scored 18 points, Brown scored 19, McRae 14, Tucory Rhodes 5, Julian Stokes 2 and Shakur Cook 2.
The Liberty girls were set to play Richmond Hill in Saturday’s consolation game.
Both squads have earned bids for state, but the girls will have to play the first game on the road. The boys have secured one home game and if they win the region championship will host two home games as they chase a state title.
The first round brackets for state should be finalized by Monday.