By Joseph Garcia
The playoffs may be over for the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers, but there were many positives that emerged from the District 8-3A champs’ season, including fans witnessing the growth of many young players.
One such youngster who blossomed this season was junior forward Blair Lord, whose toughness and tireless work ethic on the court has earned her a team captain title. She had a solid year for the Lady Panthers, finishing as the team’s second-leading rebounder and was recently named to the District 8-3A Second-Team.
“Her upside is so great,” said Liberty Hill Coach Matt Kirschner. “She is the hardest worker, which is why I named her a team captain this year. I made her a captain because of her work ethic. (Lord) is a kid you never have to fuss at for not going hard. She is very coachable and if you try to teach her something, she is going to work to get it down.”
Lord, 16, is a hardworking player with a very high basketball IQ, seemingly instilled within her DNA – literally.
Basketball has been a way of life for three generations in Lord’s family, beginning with her late grandfather, Jim Reid, who was enshrined into the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996 as a coach.
His basketball teams won more than 400 games collectively throughout his career, which including four state championships: 1969, ‘70, ‘71 and ‘90. Reid received multiple accolades and honors during his tenure, including being named the TABC All-Star Coach in 1993, being recognized by the Amarillo Globe-News as one of 100 Best Sports Legends of the 20th Century, being inducted into Hall of Fames for Panhandle Sports in 2002, Palo Duro High School in 2006 and Tivy High School in 2007.
Lord’s father, mother, aunt, uncle and brother, Zach, have all been involved in the sport as well. Needless to say, Lord was practically born with a basketball in her hands and she grew up to love the game.
“I started playing basketball as soon as I could pick up a ball,” said Lord. “My grandpa is a Hall of Fame basketball coach, my mom and aunt are state champion basketball players and my dad and uncle have coached at the state tournament, making basketball in my blood. I feel like basketball was and has been my out for the stress life has thrown at me. I love basketball almost as much as I love God, but it still comes second.”
The tenacity with which Lord plays led her to grab 141 total rebounds (4.41 average per game), while averaging just under four points (3.91) and exactly one block per game. She feels her best assets on the court are her rebounding and passing ability.
“I would describe it as intense and ball to the walls (a term used by pilots when accelerating quickly),” Lord said. “My goal is that nothing is getting between me and the ball.”
Coach Kirschner always tells his pupils that the only aspect of basketball in which he wants his players to be greedy is rebounding, because it’s all about “me” and how bad “I” want the ball for my team.
Lord’s favorite athlete is Baylor basketball sensation Brittney Griner, whose game she tries to emulate. Griner is a tough, don’t-give-an-inch player with tremendous rebounding skills just like Lord.
“Probably about 95 percent of the time it’s the girl that is going the hardest who is going to get (the rebound) and Blair (Lord) definitely does that,” Kirschner said. “She is strong, she’s physical and she has a great knowledge of the game and that’s only going to increase what we can do next year.”
Liberty Hill’s season ended too early for what the team’s expectations were. But the Lady Panthers exceeded most people’s outlook by winning their district after a slow start, something Lord very much appreciates.
Among many positives taken from the 2013 season, Lord’s confidence was one of them.
“I feel the season was to God’s glory,” she exclaimed. “The biggest lesson I learned this season, in particular, was how to work hard and to never give up. Persist in anything that you want and it will be yours. I feel my confidence level has been lifted, and I feel like I have become more aggressive.”
Expected to be the only senior on next year’s varsity squad, Lord’s role will change from being the second option in the post to Maddie Metzger, to being the main scoring threat down low.
She will be the elder statesman next season with a quartet of juniors surrounding her with just as much varsity experience as her in Baylie Bevers, Jill Green, Ashlee Walker and Shelby Whitten.
“Now she knows she is not playing behind anybody, it’s her job,” Kirschner explained. “She is still learning and she got great experience this year (and is) part of the five coming back next year. So we’ve got a lot to build on.”
Lord tends to agree and took it a step further, with the goal of returning Liberty Hill back to the state final four. She firmly believes next year will be different.
“Next year’s team will be nothing like this year’s,” she said. “I feel like God has a totally different plan for our team in direction and chemistry. I feel that because we have (five) returners, we will be stronger and closer going into the season. I hope we get to play in state tournament, which has always been my dream since I was (a baby).”