Liberty County Panthers Jordan McRae and Rion Brown combined for 42 points as the Liberty boys rebounded from their first loss last week to beat the Thomson Bulldogs 83-55 at home Friday night.
The 20-1 overall and 7-1 region 3-AAA Panthers came out strong defensively in the first quarter racking up 22 points to the Bulldogs 12 to close the first. Panther coach Willie Graham used the opportunity to rest his starters as the reserves came off the bench for most of the second quarter.
And the game went stagnant. The Panthers scored only 9 points and the Bulldogs 6 to go into intermission with the Liberty boys up 31-18.
"Our intensity (on defense) went way down in the second quarter," the coach said. "We tried to point that out to them at halftime. We told them they scored all those points in the first quarter because of your defense. You were getting the turnovers and getting the easy basket. So I told them we needed to turn our defense back up in the second half and we did."
Indeed the Panthers ran up 32 points to the Bulldogs 20 in the third.
The standout pair of Brown and McRae combined for four crowd-pleasing alley-oops.
If by chance the rock missed the mark, Tucory Rhodes was there for the rebound and toss in, netting 12 points for the night.
When the Bulldogs focused on the dynamic duo, the ball was fed to Greg Richardson, who sank 14 points.
The Bulldogs had a few bright moments as they tried to make a game of it and come from behind. Bulldog DeAndre Williams made a statement, hitting a 3-pointer after Panther Richardson sank one a few seconds earlier as the third quarter drew to a close.McRae had the ball and dribbled to mid-court. Without missing a step he gave the ball a light toss and the nothing-but-net 3-pointer found its mark as well.
The Bulldogs then snagged a steal and Williams hit another 3-pointer at the buzzer. But trailing 63-38 as they prepped for the fourth the hit from the 3-line didn’t even receive a roar from the Thomson fans.
The reserves came in for the fourth but maintained the level of intensity to keep the lead and score an additional 20 for the win.
The boys would get a few hours of rest as they were scheduled to play at West Laurens yesterday.
"I hope we can continue this defensive intensity," Graham said. "That is what we’ve been practicing on all week. Teams that win a championship play good defense and that is what you have to count on."
Rion Brown 25, Jordan McRae 17, Greg Richardson 14, Tucory Rhodes 12
DeAndre Williams 15, Jimmy Jones 10