After losing three straight basketball games in a row, the Liberty County basketball team took a 74-69 victory over rival Bradwell Institute Saturday at the Tigers’ home gym.
Panther Will Richardson scored a record single-game, career-high 55 points in the win, improving his recruiting stock.
The victory comes after a heart-breaking Liberty loss to Long County (73-72) Friday to open region 2-AAA play at 0-1. (More on that game by Mike Riddle in today’s sports.)
Richardson, a junior guard, also went 7-of-14 in three-pointers and was 16-of-35 at the free throw line.
“All I could say is that he was in the zone,” Panther head coach Julian Stokes said about Richardson’s performance. “He opened up the game for us scoring the first 11 points of the game. I’m sure he as well as the rest of his teammates took it personal that we weren’t happy with losing games, so he took it upon himself to make that a personal-statement win. I knew he stuffed the score sheet, but when I saw the final book I was amazed. He’s going to have to hold it down for us and continue to be the floor general until Davion (Mitchell) returns.”
Stokes said Mitchell’s return may be this week or right after the holiday break.
Now that football is over, Panther Jaalon Frazier is back on the hardwood doing what he does best for the team — nabbing rebounds. He had 15 against the Tigers. Richardson had 14.
Stokes said the team took the previous three losses hard.
“All of those games were winnable had we not killed ourselves,” he said, noting free throws have been a major concern. “Our man-to-man defense has to improve as a whole. You can’t win if you can’t stop anybody.”
The Tigers were on a five-game winning streak before falling 57-51 to Brunswick Friday in a Region 2-AAAAAA game. Saturday’s game against Liberty showed the Tigers improved defense and passing skills, as they nearly matched point-for-point against Liberty before falling by five points.
“One big difference between the first game and this game was our resilience,” Tiger head coach William Douberly said. “In the first game, I felt that our effort declined late in the game because we got discouraged. In the second and most recent game, I felt that we continued to give our best effort until the end of the game.”
Douberly praised Richardson’s play for the Liberty team, but noted his team fought back.
“I’m glad that our guys continued to work hard against him even as he scored a high number of points,” he said. “One major thing that stands out after the past two games is the pain that I see in the eyes of our players after losses. It’s obvious that they care and that they are giving their best. Losses only hurt when you give everything you have, but still come up a little short.”
Bradwell was set to play its second region game at Ware County Tuesday. The scores were not available by press time.
Douberly anticipated a tough game for the Tigers.
“Ware County has a coach that teaches hard, aggressive defense,” Douberly said. “We will have to be ready to handle heavy ball pressure if we want to play well against them.”
Liberty was scheduled to host Appling County Tuesday night in region games.
The final score between the Lady Panthers and Lady Tigers were not available. The Lady Panthers did beat Long County Friday 66-65 making them 1-0 in region play.