By Joseph Garcia
LAMPASAS – With a win Tuesday night, the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers could do wonders for both their place in the District 8-3A standings and their confidence. They got both.
The Liberty Hill defense did not let down from the opening tip and powered the Lady Panthers’ efforts to one of their best performances of the season.
With their offense coming easier due to their defense, the Lady Panthers put together a complete game to beat the Lady Badgers 55-25, moving to 2-2 in District 8-3A. Their destiny is still in their own hands.
“We found our intensity on both ends of the floor,” said Liberty Hill Coach Matt Kirschner. “We also forced Lampasas into a lot of turnovers and were able to convert off of those turnovers. We also shot the ball better. It was a big win for us. We had struggled for two games in a row, and tonight was great to see. We played as a team and made plays on the defensive end all night and converted those into points.”
Sophomore guard Ashlee Walker was one of the biggest catalysts on defense for Liberty Hill Tuesday. She scored the game’s first two baskets that came off of steals and six total in the first quarter.
“Ashlee (Walker) finally became real active in the press,” Kirschner explained. “She stepped it up on the defensive end and really put pressure on the Lampasas guards. Her defense led the way to our defensive performance tonight.”
Cera Dixon hit a mid-range jumper and Jill Green added a bucket of her own as the Lady Panthers held a slight advantage after one quarter at 10-8.
The Lady Badgers hung tough, but Liberty Hill outscored them in the second quarter 10-6 led by five points from Blair Lord, two each from Maddie Metzger and Shelby Whitten while Danielle Wolesensky added a free throw.
At the half Liberty Hill held a slight 20-13 lead as the game was still up for grabs.
But when the third quarter started, so did the offensive outpour for Liberty Hill, led by senior captain Erin FitzGerald.
FitzGerald began the half by nailing back-to-back 3-pointers that quickly pushed the Liberty Hill lead out to 26-13. She added a third 3-pointer, this one from the corner, which gave the Lady Panthers a 36-15 advantage, which is how the third quarter ended.
FitzGerald led the team, and the game, with 11 points. Walker added eight, while Shelby Hart and Whitten each scored six.
“Erin (Fitzgerald) finally had a game in which she relaxed and shot the ball well,” Kirschner said. “Her three 3-pointers in the third were key to our second half run. She has been playing well, but was able to finally hit the big shots when we needed them.”
Lampasas managed just two points against the Liberty Hill defense in that third period, which executed Coach Kirschner’s game plan exactly how he envisioned. Then in the final quarter, Liberty Hill exploded for a 19-point period to Lampasas’ 10.
In a convincing 30-point (55-25) victory, the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers have gained plenty heading into the next game.
“The girls did a great job executing our game plan,” Kirschner said. “It was the best I felt going into a game in district. I thought the girls did a great job in practice preparing for Lampasas. We finally played with a high level of intensity and got after it on the defensive end. We had several deflections that we were able to convert into steals.”
Now, sitting at 2-2 in the district and 10-15 overall, the Lady Panthers’ fate is up to them. Liberty Hill has six District 8-3A games remaining, beginning with back-to-back home games, the first of which takes place Friday, Jan. 18, against Gatesville for a 6:30 p.m. tipoff.
Winning the district is still a goal and one that is attainable if the Lady Panthers can continue trending upward.
“We still control our own destiny,” Kirschner said. “Friday is a key game if we want to end the first round (of district games) in third place. It is still possible to win the district. The girls and I believe we can still win all the games in the second half of district. We just need to come out and play like we did tonight.”