By Joseph Garcia
TAYLOR – It is never an easy task to beat the same team three times in a season in any sport, especially a quality team like Salado.
But with the burning desire to not let a relapse of last year’s playoff matchup with Salado, in which Liberty Hill took a 43-38 loss, the Lady Panthers reached yet another goal in beating the Lady Eagles 54-35 in the regional quarterfinals in Taylor Tuesday night.
With the win, the Lady Panthers are coast-bound to Corpus Christi to play in the Region IV tournament at 8 p.m. Friday versus West Oso.
Liberty Hill Coach Matt Kirschner couldn’t be more proud of his team.
“This is a team that I’ve had for three years,” he said. “I love them dearly and they deserve every bit of this. This is a goal that we set at the end of last year on this night when we lost. We’ve had one year to live through this and now it’s our turn.”
While Liberty Hill pulled away in the fourth quarter, the outcome was never certain until then as Salado brought everything it could to upset the No. 7 team in the state.
In an attempt to neutralize Kourtney Bevers, Salado opted to assign post player Carling Urben to the Liberty Hill guard.
“I knew Salado would bring something at us I just didn’t know what they were going to try to do defensively,” Kirschner said. “They had to do something different to beat us and they put (Carling Urben) on Kourtney (Bevers), which I thought was a mismatch in our favor. I will live with that.”
It certainly seemed so as Bevers scored 10 first-quarter points, matching Salado’s team total to lead Liberty Hill to a 15-10 lead after one.
Liberty Hill outscored Salado 11 to seven in the second quarter as the Lady Eagles kept it close, but the Lady Panthers led 26-17 at halftime.
The playoff intensity was evident with the two familiar foes as Salado fought back in the third, outscoring Liberty Hill 11 to eight led by a 4-0 run to start the half.
But when the fourth quarter came around, Liberty Hill took care of business by crashing the boards for second and third chance opportunities. The Liberty Hill defense also got to Salado in the final period, holding the Lady Eagles to nine points while scoring 20 on offense to seal the 54-35 redemptive victory over the team that ousted the school last year.
It means the world to this team to reach the regional semifinal after beating this particular opponent.
“I can’t even explain the feeling,” said Liberty Hill senior Lorrie Potts, who scored six points in the win. “Last year we got beat by Salado before the regional tournament and that really hurt us. It just feels great to put the hurt on them. I am so excited.”
Potts said the sweetest aspect about advancing to play on the Texas coast is doing it with her “sisters” that she loves.
“That’s the awesome part because we’ve been through this together the whole way and it’s just so great,” she said. “I can’t tell you enough how much I love these girls. They are so amazing and I honestly wouldn’t want anyone else on my team.”
While the Lady Panthers will enjoy their second playoff win of the season, Coach Kirschner is keeping his team focused.
“This was our night but it’s not over yet,” he said. “We do this one game at a time, now we have to get ready for Friday night.”
Another familiar Liberty Hill foe will make the sojourn to Corpus Christi after Burnet beat Navarro 56-34 Tuesday night. Their tip is set for 6 p.m. against Columbia.
Liberty Hill’s tipoff is set for 8 p.m. at the American Bank Center located at 1901 N. Shoreline Blvd., Corpus Christi, Texas 78401.
The winners will play at the American Bank Center Saturday at 1 p.m.