Liberty County enters the Sweet 16 arena as the Panthers defeated Woodland Henry on Saturday night, 61-47, at home. The boys’ squad is set to travel to Albany tonight to tip-off at 5:30 against region 1-AAA No. 1 ranked team, Westover High School.
The Liberty boys are the second seed team in region 3-AAA going into tonight’s second round of state.
The first quarter of Saturday’s game was tight, but the Liberty boys took a strong lead and never slowed down.
Panther Jordan McRae paced the offense, sinking 18 points. Terrell Johnson hit 12 buckets and Rion Brown chipped in 10 points.
Panther Emmanuel Fuller played with all his heart, dedicating the game to his mother who recently died and was buried Friday.
"That was for my mother, who passed away a couple of days ago," he said of a spectacular slam dunk in the first quarter, which drew a roar from the crowd. "That one was for her. I’m dedicating this whole thing to her."
"We need to correct the errors we made," Panther coach Willie Graham said. "At this point in the season there is no adjusting. You go out and do what you do well. You correct those things you are not doing well and go out there and play."
Graham said his entire squad came together for the game, despite a few missed shots and free throws.
He said he was pleased with the victory but knows there are tougher games ahead. He was glad to see Fuller step up after the loss of his mother.
"We came in the door, he told me, ‘Coach, I’m ready to play,’ and he’s been that way all through this," Graham said of Fuller. "You just can’t say enough about him. He’s thinking about his teammates because he doesn’t want to let them down. All the kids got out early on Friday and went to the funeral so they are thinking about him also."
Fuller said he’s prepping for tonight.
"We go on to the next round," he said. "We have to play and practice harder to get ready for the next team."
Should Liberty win tonight, they move on to the Elite Eight and will play the winner between Northside Columbus and Burke County. The Elite Eight will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Columbus State.