Liberty County scored wins against Richmond Hill Tuesday night in non-region games at the Panthers’ home gym. The Lady Panthers won 52-50 on a dramatic shot with 1.1 seconds left in regulation. The boys followed suit, but with a 64-58 margin over the Wildcats 64-58.
In the girls’ matchup, the teams were neck-and-neck with no more than three points separating the lead. At the half, the score was tied at 26.
Turnovers and a strong performance by Lady Wildcat Jamie Bunting, who ended the game with 30 points, kept Richmond Hill slightly ahead as the clock ticked down.
With less than five seconds left, Lady Panther Navia Telfair rushed the ball down court. She leapt and drained the winning basket as the crowd erupted in cheer. It was the only two points Telfair scored and her teammates surrounded her with hugs and cheers.
Senior forward/center Latia Fleming led the Lady Panthers with 22 points scored. Destiny Craig and Alayanna Flanders both chipped in 10 points each for the double digit scorers. Craig hit a three pointer in the first half.
Fleming was selected as the player of the game by coaches, according to stats on maxpreps.com.
The Lady Panthers are 1-1 and were set to play Saturday at Statesboro. The final score was not available by press time.
The excitement of the girls’ dramatic win carried into the boys’ game. Liberty opened the scoring with a 2 treys by Will Richardson. Tyreon Freeman added his own trey to go up 9-0. The Panthers led 20-10 by the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Wildcats chipped away at the Panther lead and came within two points.
“We got off to a slow start in the first quarter,” Wildcat head coach William Henderson said. “They came out and hit some shots to start the game, and that put us playing catch up early on. We were able to go on a nice run in the second quarter and took the lead, but we weren’t able to hold on to it.”
The Panthers called time and regrouped for the remainder of the second quarter. In the third quarter, Liberty once again pulled away.
“We communicated a little better as the game went along in our man-to-man defense and took our time scoring on offense,” Panther coach Julian Stokes said. “A zone is always designed to force you to shoot. We were knocking them down early, but they started to not fall for us as often as the game went on. On our misses, they were catching and running on transition, getting easy baskets. Instead of bailing them out with jump shots, we moved the ball a little better in the second half and attacked the gaps that they left open.”
Richardson, a sophomore, scored 21 points in the game. Freeman netted 15 for the double digit scorers.
Richmond Hill’s Isaiah Hill had 21 points and a few dramatic dunks to keep the visiting bench on their toes.
“Overall I was proud of the effort that the guys displayed,” Henderson said. “Even when things weren’t going our way they still fought hard until the final buzzer ... Any time you are playing a good team like Liberty County you have to minimize mistakes and capitalize on your opportunities.”
Both coaches said their teams need improvement at the line.
“Once again free throws and subpar defense hurt us a bit,” Stokes said. “We finished 13-of-32 (41 percent) from the line. We make more of those and we extend that lead a bit. Still a work in progress.
“We were able to get pretty good looks at the basket, but we weren’t able to convert. We didn’t get to the free throw line as much as we normally like to either. We were 4-of-10 from the line,” Henderson added.
The Liberty boys were set to play Saturday at Statesboro. The final score was not available by press time.