Runnin’ Panthers gaining confidence

Sophomore guard Conner Lowe (#4) shoots a floater from the baseline against Lampasas on Jan. 14. Against Llano on Tuesday, Lowe hit five three-pointers to help his team to a 78-74 victory. (Photo by Kathy Canady)

Sophomore guard Conner Lowe (#4) shoots a floater from the baseline against Lampasas on Jan. 14. Against Llano on Tuesday, Lowe hit five three-pointers to help his team to a 78-74 victory. (Photo by Kathy Canady)

By Taylor Grafft

The Liberty Hill Runnin’ Panthers are returning home on Friday to face a Brownwood team that is struggling to find wins in district this season. Brownwood played Gatesville in a close game, but still remains winless in district this season.

“We cannot look past anyone at this point,” said Coach Barry Boren. “We just have to take it one game at a time.”

The Panthers are coming off a three-game win streak in district after beating Lampasas, Gatesville and Llano in recent weeks. The Panthers are now 19-8 overall and 3-1 in District 8-3A. Their only loss this season came against rival Burnet at home.

The Runnin’ Panthers will get a chance to get revenge against their biggest rival when they travel to Burnet on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

Against Llano on Tuesday night, the Panthers came away with a four-point victory, 78-74, and pushed their win streak to three games. All three of Liberty Hill’s district wins  have been by four points.

“We’ve talked quite a bit about having tempo in our game,” Coach Boren said. “Against Llano, tempo was established early as both teams were running and pressing.”

The Panthers lit up the scoreboard against Llano from three-point range as they relied on the Lowe brothers and Heidelberg’s hot shooting. Those three players accounted for 12 of the team’s threes.

Llano countered the Panthers’ hot shooting night with nine three-pointers of their own. In the end, it was the Panthers who showed more drive and determination to come out with the close victory over their opponents.

Against Gatesville on Jan. 17, the Panthers defeated the Hornets 58-54 in another close district victory. The Panthers are being led this season by their two captains, Callen Mikulencak and Tristan Heidelberg.

Mikulencak leads the team with a 16.1 points per game average and Heidelberg is averaging 14.7 points per game. Freshman post Zach Lord is averaging 9.1 points per game and leading the team in rebounds with a 6.2 rebounds per game average.

As a team, the Panthers are coming to have success from the foul line. Mikulencak has made it to the free-throw line 200 times this season already and is hitting 74.1 percent of his free throws.

Heidelberg and Conner Lowe are leading the team in free throw percentage with both shooting around 88 percent. While Lord and Mikulencak lead the team in field goal percentage. Mikulencak is shooting around 42.6 percent, while Lord is shooting 50 percent.

If the Runnin’ Panthers can continue to average their 6.38 average winning margin they will surely win the district title again.