By TAYLOR GRAFFT
The Liberty Hill Lady Panthers now control their own destiny after defeating Brownwood 48-47 on Saturday to improve to 18-9 overall and 6-1 in district play.
The Lady Panthers were tied with Brownwood in the district standings entering into their game with rival Burnet, which was rescheduled due to inclement weather on Tuesday to press time on Wednesday. Liberty Hill will end the season with two district games against Lampasas and Gatesville.
Liberty Hill now has several possible outcomes that will be determined by Tuesday. The Lady Panthers could be out-right district champions if they finish with a better record than Brownwood. The Lady Panthers could also end up as co-district champions with Brownwood if both teams win out. But the key for Coach Matt Kirschner and his Lady Panthers is that they can control the outcome.
Against Burnet on Wednesday night the Lady Bulldogs entered the game in third place in the district standings with a 4-3 district record. The Lady Panthers beat the Lady Bulldogs 53-37 in their first meeting this season.
The Lady Panthers will travel to Lampasas in a road game with only a one-day rest period. The girls were able to practice on Monday, but Coach Kirschner said they were still feeling the physical effects of playing Brownwood last Saturday afternoon.
Against Brownwood, the Lady Panthers won in unbelievable fashion.
In the final seconds of the game, Ashlee Walker was fouled with 0.1 seconds left on the clock in overtime. Walker stepped up to the free throw line with a one-and-one opportunity. One free throw ties the game. Two free throws win the game.
Coach Kirschner called a timeout before Walker stepped up to the line to reassure the guard that he had every bit of confidence in his player to make the free throws. Bevers told Walker during the timeout not to worry and that it was just like shooting free throws during practice.
“I would have confidence in any of my girls to step up to the line and make those free throws,” said Kirschner. “We had shot the ball extremely well from the foul line in the game and I was confident that Ashlee would sink those free throws. She knew the pressure of the situation, but she remained composed and confident.”
And Walker did just that. She hit both free throws with 0.1 seconds left to give the Lady Panthers a vital win that could help them win Coach Kirschner’s fourth consecutive district championship, and his fourth in the last five years of coaching.
“I knew the game wasn’t over till it’s over,” he said. “There was still time on the clock. I couldn’t believe they fouled (Ashlee), but when they did, I was confident she’d make them. This game always comes down to free throws and that was the difference in the end. Our girls played extremely well all game and never gave up.”
Walker finished the game with 14 points while Bevers added 10 points and Shelby Whitten added 15 points.
Bevers hit two free throws with 0:39 seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the game 42-all and send the game to overtime. It was Bevers again who saved the Lady Panthers in overtime when they were down by three points. She hit a close-range jumper with five seconds left in overtime to bring the team to within one point, 47-46, before Walker sealed the win with her two clutch free throws.