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Panther to host Woodward Academy in second round
Game starts at 4 p.m. Saturday
Liberty's Richard LeCounte hits a shot in Wednesday's 74-72 win in overtime at home. The Panthers beat Henry County in the first round of the state playoffs. - photo by Patty Leon

The Liberty County High School boys’ basketball team advanced to the second round of the state playoffs after a dramatic 74-72 overtime win over Henry County on Wednesday at home.

The Panthers struggled at the free-throw line in the first half, hitting only 50 percent, and missing easy layups. The Warhawks capitalized on second shots and the Panthers’ missed free throws and layups to take a seven-point lead into halftime.

“We were down by seven at the half, and we had missed seven free throws,” Liberty County coach Willie Graham said, adding that the Panthers did the same thing a week earlier in the region championship game at Burke County. “We practice shooting free throws every day, but mentally, we don’t concentrate on them every day, and we have to get in that mindset that each free throw could be the game-winner.”

In the third quarter, Henry County extended the lead to 10 before Liberty rallied. The Panthers starting hitting shots and placing pressure on Henry County.

“We didn’t execute nearly enough (in the first half) … in the second half, we extended the pressure a little bit and our basketball skills picked up … but they out played us really,” Graham said.

At the end of regulation, the teams were tied, 61-61.

As it turned out, free throws gave the Panthers the win. With the game tied, 72-72, Liberty’s Richard LeCounte drew a foul, stopping the clock at 2.3 seconds. The sophomore shooting guard stepped up and hit both free throws, and Henry County missed a desperation shot at the buzzer.

The Panthers were 7-of-11 from the free-throw line in the second half and 7-of-12 in OT. LeCounte was 4-of-5 in overtime.

LeCounte led LCHS with 28 points. Davion Mitchell added 18 points. Jaalon Frazier scored 10, Jishaun Harris chipped in nine points and Tyriq Reece added eight points.

The Panthers will host Woodward Academy, from College Park, at 4 p.m. Saturday.

“The fluff has been weeded out, and every team that is coming in has something good they are bringing to the table … it’s now a matter of executing consistently going into each game,” Graham said.

Ticket prices are $7; doors open at 3 p.m.

The Courier will post the result of that game online once it becomes available.

Liberty County 74, Henry County 72

LCHS: 8|12|25|16|13=74

HCHS: 12|15|18|16|11=72

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