By Joseph Garcia
When the Runnin’ Panthers’ offense is clicking, opposing teams are in for a long night.
That was the case on Monday, Jan. 9, when the Lehman Lobos were in town for Liberty Hill’s final game before District 25-3A competition opens.
The Lobos have a good team of their own coached by Thomas Acker and led by junior point guard De’Andre Carson. However, Lehman could not overcome an offensive explosion by the Runnin’ Panthers who scored 32 points in the first quarter. While Lehman pushed Liberty Hill to make shots, they did in an 86-71 win.
“That’s a pretty good team,” said Liberty Hill Coach Barry Boren after the win. “The thing is that they couldn’t stop us, but we couldn’t stop them either. We just outscored them.”
Senior Stephen Graves scored early and often beginning with a three pointer to give Liberty Hill a 5-2 lead – one the Panthers would never give up. Graves completely lit up the Lobos as he went four for four from three-point land, scoring a total of 17 first-quarter points. Junior guard Shane LaCaille added five, as did senior Blake Hare who has seen more playing time of late.
Carson scored nine in the first for the Lobos, but the damage was already done as Liberty Hill took a 32-13 lead into the second quarter.
The Runnin’ Panthers showed great hustle that led to steals and picking up loose balls. However, in the second quarter, carelessness with the ball let Lehman somewhat back in the game. The Lobos outscored the Panthers 20-16 in the period, but Liberty Hill still led 48-33 at halftime.
In third quarter, the Panthers’ hot hand was that of junior Blake Danielak who scored nine in the period including one from three-point range. Senior Tyeler Greenstreet added five more. The Lobos did manage to cut the lead to 48-39 after a steal and layup from JaMael Windom. But Liberty Hill edged out Lehman with a 16-15 scoring advantage, ending the quarter up 64-48.
Carson did all he could for the Lobos scoring 13 points of his 34 in the final period. But once again it was Graves who drained shot after shot for 12 in the quarter. Hare added four of his 15 points in the final period while LaCaille closed out the game for the Panthers hitting four of four free throws.
Graves ended the game as the high scorer with 37 while Danielak had 15 and LaCaille added 13.
“He shot the ball well,” said Boren of Graves. “Offensively, when we are on we are pretty hard to beat but you are not going to be on every night. Stephen is not going to shoot the ball like that every night.”
Liberty Hill (20-3) earned its 20th win of the season, taking an 86-71 victory over Lehman.
The Runnin’ Panthers will be back in action Friday, Jan. 13, as district play begins against Taylor. Tip off is set for 8 p.m. Coach Boren has all the confidence in the world that his team is ready for district.
“We feel like we should do well in our district,” he said. “The district itself will be much the same as in years past. Certainly each team has some outstanding contributors from last year’s team. They also know what to expect from us.
“Now, we can only prepare and execute if we expect the outcome to be the same,” he said. “Our message is this: we have played Phase I of our schedule. The purpose is to get ready for Phase II (district). If we do well enough, we will earn the right to proceed to Phase III (the playoffs).”