"Air" Jordan McRae pumped in 36 points and future Hurricane Rion Brown stormed in 21 to help the Liberty County Panthers win 80-52 at home against Washington County in the region opener Friday night.
Lady Panther Kourtney Alexander led the girls, dropping in 19 points and Courtney Rhodes helped with 14. But the Lady Golden-Hawks pulled away in the third quarter to take a 69-50 win against the home team.
Lady Panthers 50,
Lady Hawks 69
Strong forward Diamone Johnson and strong guard Miata Askew watched from the sidelines as the Lady Panthers struggled with passes and repeatedly turned the ball over. The turnovers accumulated, allowing a one-point deficit to turn into a 25-point deficit by the third quarter.
Johnson and Askew, both starters, had to sit out with injuries and the Lady Panther coach agrees her bench was not up for the challenge.
"We are about seven deep and we were playing without our two girls who together average about 25 points and 16 rebounds a game," coach Carolyn Kelly said. "So we knew it might be a bit of a struggle for us. We had to go to the bench and play a lot of our younger kids and I don’t think they were ready for the intensity and type of play Washington brought.
"When you are playing a team as skilled as Washington County you can’t afford the amount of turnovers that we had. They did a good job of running the floor tonight and transitioning."
In addition to turnovers the Lady Panthers didn’t go up for the ball and Kelly said her girls have to do a better job at rebounding.
Johnson and Askew were not scheduled to play yesterday as the girls went to Thomson, but the coach said it’s early in the season and with the holiday break, her squad will have time to heal.
"Even though these are two big games, it’s early in the season and we can use this time to tweak our games so we can know what we can do in case someone else should get injured and have to sit out," she said.
Lady Hawks coach Sug Parker said the game proved his girls could match and exceed the intensity level of any team they come up against. Yet, he added, he would like to see his girls manage the clock better and learn how to score from their best positions.
The WACO girls are now 6-1 overall and 1-0 in the region. The Lady Panthers are now 7-3 overall and 0-1 in region 3-AAA.
The result and details of Saturday’s battle with Thomson will be in Wednesday’s Courier.
Lady Panthers 13 30 36 50
Lady Hawks 14 37 61 69
Kourtney Alexander: 19 (one 3-point shot)
Courtney Rhodes: 14
Anika Taylor: 12
Precious Williams: 5
Panthers 80, Hawks 52
Panther Jordan McRae came banging out of the gate with three back-to-back trey shots, firing up the home team who closed the half up 48-18.
Rion Brown aided the win, dumping in 21 points to keep the home team ahead throughout the game.
WACO had opportunities to close the gap, but even the Panthers’ second unit proved to be too strong defensively against the visiting Hawks.
Panther coach Willie Graham said his team did well on offensive, but failed at the line.
"We didn’t shoot our free throws well," he said. "All of our better shooters were breaking the ball even though we shoot them every night (in practice)."
The Panthers improved to 10-0 overall and 1-0 in the region as they set their sights on the Thomson Bulldogs Saturday night.
Graham said his team played with a lot of energy and intensity against WACO, but at times became lax.
"We need to maintain the energy for the whole game," he said. "We need to maintain the focus."
Panthers 26 48 67 80
Hawks 10 18 32 50
Jordan McRae: 36
Rion Brown: 21
Tucory Rhodes: 8
Julian Stokes: 4
Greg Richards: 2
Marcus Jefferson: 2
Anthony Hawkins: 2
Tabias Marion: 2
Jamel Perteet: 2
Shakur Cook: 1