The Liberty Hill Junior High boys’ basketball teams opened up district play Thursday, Jan. 5, when Burnet rolled into town. And as always – even at this level – the games are intense when the Panthers play the Bulldogs.
Down 6-0 to start the game in front of a rowdy crowd, the boys’ gold team (5-3) cut the deficit to 11-9 after the first quarter when No. 13 hit a three-point bucket as time expired.
After tying the game 11-11, Liberty Hill took its first lead (15-14) with 2:56 to play in the half. The Panthers hit three treys in the second quarter, taking a 21-18 lead into the locker room at the break.
The second half was just as close as the game was tied 23-23 then 25-25 before a Burnet bucket gave the Bulldogs a 27-25 lead with one quarter left.
Liberty Hill’s defense stepped up a notch in the final period, giving the Panthers fast break opportunities that led to layups and free throws. The Panthers sunk two from the charity stripe to take a 31-29 advantage, but Burnet came back to tie (31-31) and send it into overtime.
In the OT, the Burnet defense anticipated Liberty Hill passes and stole a handful that led to layups at the other end of the floor. With only three minutes of overtime, Liberty Hill ran out of time as the comeback attempt fell short with Burnet winning 40-33.
“Both teams showed a lot of heart and determination Thursday night,” said Liberty Hill Junior High School Athletic Director and Coach Justin Goldsmith. “The B team was struggling early on and were not playing well, but Coach Spraberry made some adjustments at half and the guys responded very well. The second half they played really good basketball and gave themselves an opportunity to win.”
Perhaps the Gold team’s overtime game influenced the Purple team and its opponent’s ability to start fast in their respective game, as there was a total of six points scored in the first quarter. Liberty Hill led 4-2 after one.
The second quarter was a whole different animal.
With an up-tempo style of play, the Panthers pushed the Bulldogs and challenged them to keep up the pace in the second. Six different Panther players scored in the period including three three-point baskets by leading scorer Carson Lowe who finished the night with 30. The third ended with the Panthers comfortably out front 23-12 at the half.
“It was nothing but good for the A team,” Goldsmith said. “When they are firing on all cylinders, there isn’t a team in district that can beat them, and they were certainly firing against Burnet.”
Lowe continued his hot hand in the third quarter scoring 12 points including another three-point bomb. Lowe’s great shooting night coupled with a trapping defense that really picked up gave the Panthers a 38-19 advantage with the fourth quarter remaining.
Liberty Hill’s defense allowed Burnet to score only four fourth-quarter points while Lowe nailed two more treys and another bucket to give Liberty Hill’s Purple squad (6-2) a 49-23 victory.
“They were playing at a speed I’ve only seen in practice a few times and it finally came out in the game,” Goldsmith explained of the Purple team. “It was fun to watch.”
The next round of LHJH games will be played Thursday, Jan. 12 versus Salado beginning with the 7th Gold team at 4:30 p.m.