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Panthers get revenge for Beach losses
Rion Brow - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon
With the intensity and feel of a championship title game, the Liberty County Panthers, in a non-region grudge match, clawed the Beach Bulldogs Friday.
The first time, the men Panthers battled the Bulldogs they took a 10-point loss. But Friday night the Panthers were on their home court and within the last two minutes were able to edge out a four-point lead and victory over the Bulldogs (74-70).
The Lady Panthers were also looking for a win after Beach beat them by only four points in their last match. And the Lady Panthers reciprocated, giving the Lady Bulldogs their first and only loss to date by a nine-point margin (68-59).

Lady Panthers 68, Lady Bulldogs 59
The Lady Panthers started the scoring drive and immediately gained the momentum.  By half time the Lady Panthers had a 10-point lead (33-23). But the Lady Bulldogs’ sluggish offense ignited in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter the Bulldogs edged out a one-point advantage with only 3:24 left on the clock.
That’s when Candace Barham got the rebound off a missed free throw from Metra Walthour. She passed it back to Walthour who made a three-point shot.
This continued the Lady Panthers rally, defensively holding the Bulldogs scoring and offensively outscoring them in the last few minutes of the game.
“We did not shoot the ball very well tonight,” Lady Bulldogs head coach Ronald Booker said. Of course they did and they also shot the free throws very well. You can’t give a team like Liberty that much of a point cushion the way we did in the first half.” Booker added that if he were to count the number of mistakes his team made “999 of them” were due to Liberty’s playing skills.
For Lady Panther head coach Carolyn Kelly a change in strategy was the key to the win.
“The difference was we worked real hard in defending our base line,” she said. “We stayed in our 2-3 defense in the beginning, but we talked to our players and we told them that both of Beach’s key players like to take the base line and we had to push them back inside.
“So we got help from our post players and they were able to do just that. Also we changed our defense up. We decide to go from a 2-3 defense to a box and one and that worked well for us.”
Kelly said she knew the Lady Bulldogs were going to keep the ball away from Walthour and LaQuananisha Adams as much as possible and was once again pleased with her younger players stepping up to the leadership role.
“We knew they were going to try and take the ball away from Metra tonight and they did for a while but Miata and Candace stepped up again,” she said. “We kept telling our younger players they needed to step up because there are going to be teams that double team Nisha and Metra and they did and did a good job for us.”

Metra Walthour 20
LaQuananisha Adams 19
Candace Barham 13
Miata Askew 9
Kourtney Alexander 7

Panthers 74, Bulldogs 70
The men Panthers took an early 16-13 lead to end the first period but the Bulldogs stayed were never firmly in the Panthers’ sharp grasp. With 3:27 left before halftime the Bulldogs edged out a two-point lead and then hit a three-point shot to extend the lead to five.
Terrell Johnson drew a foul with 23 second left before halftime but missed both shots. The Bulldogs hit a quick lay-up and closed the half with a one-point lead (32-33).
The teams exchanged baskets and the lead flip-flopped between them. The Panthers’ Rion Brown sank a three-pointer at the third period buzzer, giving them a two-point lead (52-50).
In the fourth period, the Panthers pulled away by six but Beach hit a three-point shot, keeping them just three points behind. The Bulldogs tied the game with 1:58 left on the clock.
The Panthers knocked in two baskets to lead by two, but with 24 seconds left the Bulldogs got a steal and a basket and trailed by two.  Brown drew a foul and made two of two at the line giving the Panthers their final four-point lead and win as the clock ran out.
“It’s a good win over a good quality team,” Panther head coach Willie Graham said. “It was a hard fought battle and I’m glad we could pull it out.”
The Panthers seemed to have found their stride and with a deep bench Graham has the ability of combining his players, practically running two sets of teams.
“I think we finally have the right combination,” he said. “We have 10 players we can play every night. We are trying to get the players to accept the roles they will have to play.
“Sometimes some will play more minutes than other nights it depends on the team we face and how the group is functioning. Occasionally we will have to mix the group up but it’s going to be ten of us all the time and not who is the one scoring points. “


Rion Brown 18
Jordan McRae 13
Willie Lee 10
Michael Manning 10
Emmanuel Fuller 10
Rashine Mitchell 5
Charles Friend 4
Chris Riley 2
Donrico Wigfall 2
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