By Joseph Garcia
Coming off their district-opening victory over Llano, the Lady Panthers returned home Tuesday to take on a tough Brownwood team looking for its first 8-3A win.
The teams appeared evenly matched, but the Lady Lions leapt out to a 5-0 lead, which ultimately Liberty Hill could not completely overcome. The Lady Panthers tied the game at 16-16, then 22-22, but were never able to quite get over the hump.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Brownwood Lady Lions did just enough to go home with a 46-40 victory. Liberty Hill had its windows of opportunity throughout the contest, but instead moved to 1-1 in the district, as did Brownwood.
“We had our chances, but could not make the shots we needed to throughout the game,” said Liberty Hill Coach Matt Kirschner. “Also, we gave up some key baskets when we would get close. It also seemed like they out-hustled us to the ball. We just could not make shots.”
The first quarter ended with Brownwood up 13-7, but the Lady Panthers’ defense turned up their intensity and clawed their way back in the game.
Led by seven second-quarter points from Maddie Metzger, five from Shelby Whitten and three more from Blair Lord, Liberty Hill outscored Brownwood in the period 17-13.
The press and traps began force turnovers by Brownwood and Liberty Hill tied the game at 22-22 in the second. However, the Lady Lions maintained their lead, taking a 26-24 advantage into the locker room.
When Liberty Hill cut the score to one (28-27) early in the third quarter, a comeback looked very possible. However, turnovers killed the Lady Panthers’ momentum and Brownwood went on a 13-3 run to end the quarter. With the score 40-30 after the third, the Lady Panthers had their work cut out for them.
Finally in the fourth quarter, Liberty Hill picked up steam again, but could not string together baskets on offense and stops at the other end. The Lady Panthers were afforded an opportunity to creep back in and nearly pulled it off. But despite outscoring Brownwood 10-6 in the final quarter, the Lady Lions were on top at the end 46-40.
There were some highlights for Coach Kirschner, but he felt his team ran out of steam towards the end.
“I thought that Cera Dixon played well on offense and Blair Lord rebounded well,” Kirschner said. “But we got tired at times. I played players in longer stretches than they are used to and we could not keep up the intensity.”
Liberty Hill’s defensive intensity is seemingly the key to victory. And Coach K knows exactly what the Lady Panthers need to do in order to pick up close district wins in the future.
“We have to learn to practice and then play with a higher level of intensity,” he said. And we cannot take anything for granted.”
Liberty Hill hits the road on Friday, Jan. 11, when the Lady Panthers take on Burnet. The varsity tipoff is scheduled for 7:45 p.m.