Panthers continue winning ways

School may be out for winter break, but shots keep going in for the Liberty Hill Runnin’ Panthers.

The Runnin’ Panthers hosted a Lorena Leopards team that gave Liberty Hill some problems, but with solid defense in the second half and smart offense the home team seized a 59-46 victory Dec. 19.

“They are very well coached and very patient and disciplined,” said Liberty Hill Coach Barry Boren. “That’s the kind of team that gives us the most trouble. They are going to be in the hunt in their district…they are a good team and this was a quality win.”

The Panthers quickly found themselves down 3-0 after a Lorena three pointer opened the game. But junior Blake Danielak picked up where he left off last game and tied the contest with a trey of his own. He hit another three soon after followed by a long jumper for five first-quarter points.

Three three pointers and two free throws made up all of Lorena’s points, bringing the score to 13-11 after one.

Liberty Hill scored a couple of fast-break buckets in the second quarter. Danielak scored one basket – where he came an inch away from a dunk – and the other by Corey McKinzey. However, Liberty Hill gave them right back as Lorena crept back in the game with transition points and open shots.

Lorena took a 24-22 lead with just under three minutes left in the period, but a three by Blake Hare stole the advantage right back 25-24.

Coach Boren let his team know about their faults as most of the second team closed the half the Panther on top 27-26.

“I thought that we didn’t challenge them enough,” Boren said. “We looked at the scoreboard and we had only fouled like two times or something and told (the team) that we weren’t getting close enough to them to foul. So, they got a couple looks at the basket.”

Whatever Boren said to his team at halftime seemingly sunk in for the Runnin’ Panthers as they allowed only six points to Lorena in the third quarter while scoring 16 of their own. Coach Boren was a bit more pleased with what he saw in the second half.

“They did some good things and actually got ahead of us and we squeaked by to be up at the half by one,” he said. “Then in the second half the guys exerted themselves just a little bit and we gave ourselves a little bit more breathing room.”

Liberty Hill’s defensive intensity picked up as the Panthers rotated quickly and closed out shooters on the perimeter. Coach Boren also implemented a four-corner offense towards the end of the game to closed out the Leopards and maintain possession. The formation also allowed LaCaille to drive down the wide-open lane for layups, as he was too quick for Lorena defenders.

LaCaille once again led the Panthers in scoring with 22, while Danielak showed up big again for Liberty Hill with 18 points and four blocks. Stephen Graves added seven more with Hare, McKinzey and Tyler Greenstreet netting four a piece.

For the second game in a row Danielak’s offensive production increased, with a defensive intensity to match, as he is becoming a presence in the middle for opposing teams to deal with.

“I told him that he had to get involved offensively,” Boren said of Danielak. “Even though he hit some shots in the first half, they weren’t having to guard anybody inside. So we went inside and he was on the baseline drawing double teams and scoring. When they were conscious of him I thought that opened up everything else.”

The Runnin’ Panthers don’t hit the hard court again until they travel to Fredericksburg for a tournament Dec. 27-28 for their final games of the year.