Hart brings heart to the Lady Panthers

By Joseph Garcia

Liberty Hill senior Shelby Hart (#22) is one of the key reasons the Lady Panthers have come together of late to make a run at a district championship. (Photo by Kathy Canady)

On successful sports teams there is often a player who is respected and very well-liked by their teammates for the effort, support and love they spread throughout the team and locker room. Quite simply, that player makes the team better without being a statistical leader in any category, unless they keep stats for heart.

Liberty Hill senior Shelby Hart, born on Valentine’s Day and aptly named, is that player for the Lady Panthers who exudes compassion for her teammates, not only when they are winning, but also when the chips are down. Liberty Hill Coach Matt Kirschner is lucky to have her as part of this season’s special group, which has grown closely together recently.

“Shelby (Hart) is a very sweet young lady and she loves her teammates dearly,” said Kirschner. “She will do whatever she has to so that the team finds success. She gives her best effort every day. I know when she is on the floor she is giving it all she has for the good of the team.”

Hart, daughter of LHISD Superintendent Dr. Rob Hart and his wife Penny, a teacher at Liberty Hill Junior High School, has been playing basketball for seven years. She also enjoys water skiing and is a gymnastics enthusiast as her favorite athlete is Russian Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin.

It seems befitting she likes gymnastics because she is seemingly flexible when it comes to playing different roles on the Lady Panthers’ basketball team. She is drawn to the competitiveness of the sport, but also sees the humanity aspect as being, perhaps, the most important part.

“My favorite aspect of playing basketball would probably be the competition and also, the team camaraderie,” said Hart. “I feel like my role on the team is to always stay positive myself and also when others are down to help them stay positive as well. My best assets on the court would probably be quickness and teamwork; I feel that I work well with a team.”

Coach Kirschner said Hart truly understands the role of a role player and knows what she is supposed to do and how to get the job done. Kirschner said Hart is very coachable and sets an example for other players since she soaks up his basketball knowledge like a sponge.

“She is willing to do anything for the team,” he said. “She takes the coaching I give her and immediately applies it to her game.”

Hart’s game consists of quickness, smarts, anticipation and communication with teammates. She also has a pretty jump shot and has been known to hit some timely baskets this season.

During district play, Hart is averaging just over three points per game (3.11) and is third on the team in free throw percentage at 82. For the season, she is fourth on the team in 3-pointers with five made.

This season, Hart and her teammates have experienced growing pains a young team often does at the beginning of a season. Having started district play as an average team, the Lady Panthers are now sitting in position for a share of the District 8-3A title.

“This season has been a growing experience for all of us,” Hart said. “We have all had to adjust to playing with one another, considering we are a brand new team. It took time, but we got the hang of it just in time for district play.”

Most recently the Lady Panthers picked up district win No. 7 and have pulled their overall record to .500 at 15-15 with one regular season game remaining. The 51-30 win over Lampasas was the team’s last game at the Panthers Den.

After the win, Hart and the other seniors had mixed emotions after playing their final home game in a Liberty Hill uniform. But being the great teammate she is, she and the team will forge ahead onto the next goal.

“It was bittersweet,” Hart said. “It was awesome to win, but sad that we will never play on that court again. Our goals for moving forward are take one game at a time and take each game just as serious, if not more, as the last one played.”

Hart and her teammates hope to be playing well into February as the playoffs are set to begin soon. But while she has team goals set out in front, she also has personal goals in mind once she graduates. Her favorite subject in school is math and being the daughter of educators she plans to combine those two aspects and make it her future.

“After I graduate, I plan on attending Texas State University and majoring in education,” she said. “I would really like to be a high school math teacher someday.”

Until then, Hart and the Lady Panthers will pour their hearts into making a memorable run in the 2013 UIL playoffs.