Both teams trailed early on, but the Liberty County High School girls and boys heated up the floor Friday night, making runs in the second half to defeat the visiting Baldwin Braves. The boys won 81-65 and the girls won 52-43.
Lady Panthers 52,
Lady Braves 43
A sluggish start allowed the Lady Braves a quick 4-0 run before the Liberty girls found some momentum and hit a pass for an inside layup. Senior Kourtney Alexander hit a pair of shots and Precious Williams and Diamone Johnson netted a couple of steals to bring them back into the game, but the home team still trailed by 1 at the close of the first.
In the second, however, the Liberty girls scored 20 to the Lady Braves’ 8 and had an 11-point lead at the half.
Alexander hit 10 of her 16 points in the second half, including two from the three-point line, to extend the lead. Johnson aggressively charged the opponents, despite their taller stature and physical strength. She also went for the board, getting eight rebounds for the night.
"The girls worked hard tonight," Panthers assistant coach Jene’ Singleton said.
The Lady Panthers were set to play Richmond Hill on Saturday night and will host Tattnall on Tuesday.
Lady Panthers 12 32 42-52
Lady Braves 13 21 32-43
Kourtney Alexander: 16 points, five rebounds
Diamone Johnson: 8 points, eight rebounds
Anika Taylor 10 points
Courtney Rhodes: 6 points, seven rebounds
Miata Askew: 6 points
Precious Williams: 6 points
The Panthers were 20 of 33 at the line.
Panthers 81, Braves 65
The Panther boys also had a slow start, which allowed the Braves to carry the game for most of the first half. The Liberty duo of Rion Brown and Jordan McRae came out of the locker room and cranked up the tempo to match the Braves’ pace.
"They liked a fast pace and offensively that fits right in with us," Panther coach Willie Graham said of the Braves’ game plan.
The new tempo allowed McRae to drop in 22 of his 29 points in the second half, and Brown knocked 16 of his 27.
When the Braves fought back and took a 4- point lead in the third quarter, the Panther slammed in 17 unanswered points. And when the Braves tried to take out the dynamic duo, Panther Greg Richardson stepped in.
"Defensively, they forced Rion and Jordan out," Graham said. "This time more so on Rion. They attacked him quicker. But this is the type of game you let your defense win for you and while they might stop one or two or both, there is a third one out there just waiting to come to the forefront.
Richardson rounded out the top scorers by adding 10 points.
With the boys still in the region’s top spot, Graham said being No. 1 has been the talk of the town. But the coach said he prefers to keep things in perspective.
"It doesn’t matter where you are ranked at the beginning or during the season," he said. "It just matters where you are ranked at the end. Rankings, as far as the coaches are concerned, are nothing more than a distraction."
The Panthers played Richmond Hill last night and will host Tattnall County on Tuesday.
Braves 17 25 48-65
Panthers 16 32 59-81
Jordan McRae: 29 points
Rion Brown: 27 points
Greg Richardson: 10 points
Julian Stokes: 7 points
Tucory Rhodes: 6 points
Melvin King: 2 points