By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Panthers start season at Joe Greene tourney
Men split, ladies are 2-0
Willie Graham
The Liberty County Panthers started their basketball season Tuesday and Wednesday at the 30th annual Joe Greene Tip-Off Tournament in Savannah.
The Panther men ended with a loss in overtime to Savannah High but won against Jenkins the following evening. The women start the season strong under the leadership of senior players LaQuananisha Adams and Metra Walthour. They end the tournament 2-0, with victories over Savannah and Jenkins. After a quick break for the Thanksgiving weekend, the coaching staff discussed strategy as they both prepare for the regular season opener against Beach high.

Savannah 90, Liberty 82 (in overtime)
Jenkins 49, Liberty 73
Men’s head coach Willie Graham said his team had a good performance, offensively, and a poor performance, defensively, in their 90-82 loss against Savannah in overtime.
Sophomore Jordan McRae led the baskets with 23 points in the battle against Savannah. But Graham knows there is much more work to be done
“We have some work to do on  the defensive end,” he said. “As for McRae, that was his first full varsity game as a sophomore. We were impressed with McRae because he was able to handle two very fast paced, back-to-back games - first against Savannah and then against Jenkins.
“In back-to-back games, the first thing that goes is your legs,” he said. “When your legs go, your shots go. Not only your shots but also your defense suffers because you don’t move as quick to your spots as you are supposed to. We plan to use those quick back-to-back, fast-tempo games now as a teaching tool and, come Monday, add them to our practice,” Graham said.
The Panthers have four days to get ready for their first regular season game as they travel to Beach High on Friday evening.
“We scouted them Saturday night but, tempo wise, it should be a fast-paced game,” Graham said. “Beach can attack the ball aggressively. We will have to limit our turnovers. We had 20-something turnovers in the first quarter against Savannah and that is entirely too many. We have to work hard, concentrate and keep our emotions in check.”
Overall, Graham anticipates his team will have a deep bench, giving them the ability to be ready to play a lot of players this season.

Lady Panthers

Liberty 56, Savannah 21
Liberty 53, Jenkins 21
As Lady Panthers head coach Carolyn Kelly expected, it was her two seniors who led the way at the Joe Greene tournament. In their first game against Savannah, Adams and Walthour combined for 31 points. Jenkins Walthour put up 17 point and Adams totaled 14 points.
“They did a really great job,” Kelly said. “I was especially impressed by Adams who came up with 15 rebounds in one of the games. She was shooting the ball extremely well. We have been working with Adams’ outside shot because there are a lot of teams that try to double-team her. We are working on her moving the ball out to open up the middle.”
As impressed as Kelly was with her two seniors, she knows it takes an effort from everyone on the court.
“One of our main goals this year is to get more of the players involved in the game offensively,” she said. “We got people who can shoot the ball, but right now they are depending on Adams and Walthour to do all the scoring. We need to let them know we must have five people on the floor and five people taking the shots.
“We’ve tons of shooting drills to work on this specific area and one of the players that stands out is Miata Askew,” she said.
Kelly noted the team must understand that when other teams are stacking their players up against Adams, somebody else is going to be open on the court. At this point, Kelly feels everyone needs to step it up to the next level of play.
“Askew came out and took a couple of shots early to open things up in the tournament,” Kelly said. “And so did Janisha Ross. That’s what these ladies need to do.”
The Ladies must prepare for a true challenge against a powerful and fast Beach High team.
“They are extremely powerful,” Kelly said. “They have two division-one players on their team. Right now, they are juniors but I’m pretty sure they will be at that next level next year. They can handle the ball, see the ball, they can shoot. They are really aggressive. We cannot get into a relay race with this team.
“We need to set the pace and play our game; and set up the plays and shots or it will be rough for us. We need to play our style of basketball and not theirs.”
The Lady Panthers hit the courts at Beach High at 6 p.m. Nov. 30 with the men’s game immediately following.
Sign up for our e-newsletters