Liberty County fell from the ranks of the unbeaten on Saturday, dropping a 64-63 decision to McIntosh County Academy in Darien.
The Panthers, who are now 8-1, are ranked fourth in the latest Class AAA state coaches poll.
The Lady Panthers fared better against MCA, trouncing the Buccaneers 51-31 to improve to 7-2.
Both Liberty County teams are set to start Region 3-AAA action this weekend. On Friday, Washington County will visit the Panthers, while on Saturday, Thomson is scheduled to make the trek to the Panthers’ gym.
Panthers coach Willie Graham said his team’s 95-90 win at Long County last Friday played a role in Liberty County’s loss to the Buccaneers.
"We had tired legs from Friday night," he said. "And our bench didn’t respond as needed."
Jordan McRae led Liberty with 21 points, while Terrell Johnson had 16 and Emmanuel Fuller chipped in 13.
Graham said his squad had several opportunities to win the game, but did not execute well and did not play with a sense of urgency.
On Friday, the Panthers will host Washington County at 8:30. Saturday’s game against Thomson is set for 6:30 p.m.
Washington County is off to a 6-0 start, according to GaSports.com. Last season, the Golden Hawks made it to the Class AAA quarterfinals before losing to Glenn Hills. The program has come a long way since the 2004-05 season, when the Hawks did not have a win.
Liberty 18 16 12 17–63
MCA 18 21 12 13–64
The Lady Panthers’ win at MCA was expected since the Lady Buccaneers are winless, but Liberty coach Carolyn Kelly was pleased with her team’s play. She said Diamone Johnson continues to improve. The freshman was in her comfort zone last the two games against Long County and MCA.
"We let her play down low," Kelly said. "It’s a position she is used to from middle school, and we had Marcella Gordon and Candace Barham get into foul trouble in the last two games. She is comfortable there, and she did extremely well."
Also helping Kelly’s squad was the return of Shontavia Clay, who returned to the starting lineup.
"She made her presence known on the defensive end," Kelly said.
This week, the Lady Panthers will face a 4-2 Washington County team and a 0-2 Thomson squad.
"We played Washington County in postseason games in the past," Kelly said. "They’ve always had a good team, and I expect them to be just as good now. As far as Thomson goes, I don’t have a clue."