The crowd was on their feet at Panther stadium Saturday when the Liberty County High School Lady Panthers clawed their way to victory in the last four minutes of overtime to defeat the Lady Bears of Burke County 61-59.
Just 90-minutes later, the fans were standing again as the Panthers followed suit in regulation with a 68-51 win. On Friday the Panther squad did the same, downing West Laurens before returning home for the showdown against the Bears in their second of four back-to-back region games.
The boys improve to 12-1 overall and 4-0 in region 3-AAA. The girls are 10-3 and 3-1.
The girls traded point for point until the Lady Panthers finally took a six point lead in the third period. But with a lackluster performance at the line and a few bad passes the Lady Bears were able to tie the score at 44 with 4:43 left on the clock.
From that point on it was a run and gun shoot down and regulation ended with the game tied at 55.
The turnaround came in overtime when Lady Panthers Courtney Rhodes and Shontavia Clay came off the bench and hit critical shots keeping a 2 point edge and the 61-59 victory.
Pacing the girls’ offense was Kourtney Alexander with 12 points. Precious Williams sank in 10, Diamone Johnson added 9. But head coach Carolyn Kelly felt she had no offense to speak of.
"We played terrible," she said. "This is probably one of the worst games we played all year. Burke County is a fairly decent team. I won’t take anything away from them, but I think my kids did not execute on offense. They didn’t do well on the board. We just had a terrible game and we did a lot of things wrong and very few things right. I was just lucky that we managed to pull out that win."
She said she had a few players get into foul trouble before the half simply because they were not moving their feet. She hopes this game serves as a lesson to play harder.
"We were at the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong things, bottom line," she said. "I’m hoping that this is the bad game behind us and that we won’t see another one like this the rest of the season."
The boys opened with a quick run and closed the first period with a 9-point lead. The Bears answered back with a 6-point run before the Panthers started hitting trey shots courtesy of Greg Richardson, Jordan McRae and Rion Brown hitting the triple threat twice, twice and once, respectively.
In the fourth Chris Riley added another 3-pointer, helping keep the Panthers ahead through most of the second half. However, the Panthers struggled with some early shots and had a few passes grabbed from the Bears squad in mid toss.
McRae would end with 19 points. Brown added 17 and Richardson sank 12 in a victory head coach Willie Graham said showed his squad has kinks to work out.
"I’m happy we won but I’m not happy with the way we played," Graham said. "We have to fix a little bit of everything. Shot selection, decision making, we have to fix a lot of things."
Graham said his squad should perform the way they are asked at practice and not change during the game.
"We are not mentally focusing on doing the things we need to do," he said. "If you can do it right once, you should do them right twice, three time and keep doing it. When you are doing things right and just suddenly decide ‘hey let me try something else this time,’ why? The way we practice it is the way we want to do it."
The Panthers were scheduled to play their third region opponent, Richmond Hill, at home Tuesday night. See Friday Courier for scores and updates.