By Joseph Garcia
Just weeks ago, Liberty Hill junior varsity basketball Coach Blake Boren said that when district play rolled around, his team should be ready and judging from Friday’s outcome, he was right.
The JV Panthers had one final contest last week against visiting Waco La Vega before District 8-3A play opens up and if the tune-up game was any indication, they will be ready for a championship run. The Pirates came in with energy, but left Liberty Hill dejected after the Panthers came up big for a 58-34 win.
“I kind of said at the beginning of the year that I knew where we would end up being at the end and we’re getting there,” said Liberty Hill Coach Blake Boren. “The kids feel good and they seem real positive going into district. So, it’s definitely a good spot to be going into district on the uphill.”
After trading baskets to begin the game, Liberty Hill finished the first quarter on top 13-7 and doubled its lead by the time halftime came. Thanks to seven second-quarter points from sophomore Bryson Carroll and at least two from five others that mostly came off steals from the press, the Runnin’ JV Panthers took a 31-14 lead into the locker room.
La Vega’s defense picked up to start the second half, allowing just 10 Liberty Hill points in the third quarter. However, Liberty Hill’s defense gave up even less as the Pirates managed just six points in the third.
Two of Liberty Hill’s 10 in the period came right before the buzzer sounded as sophomore Nick Hernandez scored on a fast break layup, making the score 41-20 with one quarter to play.
The fourth quarter was a sprit as both teams scored a flurry of points in a back-and-forth battle. The Runnin’ Panthers, however, out-hustled the Pirates and ballooned their lead to 58-34 for the final score.
Carroll led the Panthers in scoring with 11, Quentin Gillespie added nine and Hernandez, Marshall Brown and Christian Anderson each contributed six points.
Boren said the team is growing both individually and as a whole, just in time for district play.
“We’ve got freshmen, sophomores and juniors and those freshmen are slowly looking less and less like freshmen,” he said. “At the JV level freshmen kind of stick out. JV is kind of like purgatory. It’s not quite heaven with the varsity or the other place with the freshmen. So, it’s just a strange mixture and when that mixture comes together our kids can be very good.”
Since only varsity teams’ seasons are extended to the playoffs, every district game matters even more. There are 10 8-3A games on the schedule and the JV Panthers will look to win another district title with their first challenge coming on the road in hostile territory – Burnet.
On Friday, Jan. 11, the JV team tips off district play first at 5:15 p.m. with freshmen to follow at 6:30 p.m. and varsity at 8 p.m.
“We are looking forward to starting off the season in the right way in Burnet,” Boren acknowledged. “What other opponent besides Burnet, our heated rivals, to begin the (district) season.”