Boren notches 600th career win in Liberty Hill’s victory over China Spring

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The Liberty Hill boys basketball team helps coach Barry Boren celebrate his 600th career victory after a 71-48 victory against China Spring last week. The Panthers presented Boren with a signed jersey to commemorate the victory. From left in front are Callen Mikulencak, Coach Barry Boren, Slater Foust, Josh Sudekum, Carson Lowe, Conner Lowe, Brady Lochte and Logan Gillentine. In back are Aeden Welch, Trey Jenkins and Zach Lord. (Kathy Canady Photo)

The Liberty Hill boys basketball team helps coach Barry Boren celebrate his 600th career victory after a 71-48 victory against China Spring last week. The Panthers presented Boren with a signed jersey to commemorate the victory. From left in front are Callen Mikulencak, Coach Barry Boren, Slater Foust, Josh Sudekum, Carson Lowe, Conner Lowe, Brady Lochte and Logan Gillentine. In back are Aeden Welch, Trey Jenkins and Zach Lord. (Kathy Canady Photo)

By BOB VARMETTE

Liberty Hill coach Barry Boren got his 600th career coaching victory Nov. 25 with the Panthers’ 71-48 win over the China Spring Cougars in boys non-district basketball at Liberty Hill High School.

Despite the large final margin, it was in doubt for a time. But the Panthers turned away a Cougar challenge in the third quarter to secure the milestone victory for their coach by a comfortable final score.

“It just says I’ve been coaching a long time,” Boren said. “You get around some good kids. They make you look good. It’s a good win – I’m very grateful for it. I knew it would come – I wasn’t sure it would come this early, but it’s nice, nice way to go into Thanksgiving.”

Callen Mikulencak scored a game-best 27 points to lead the Panthers (3-0). The Liberty Hill senior guard played a critical role in turning away the second-half challenge by China Spring (1-1).

The Panthers pulled away from the Cougars late in the first quarter and held leads that hovered around 10 points until midway through the third quarter, when China Spring made its run and closed the gap to just one point at 44-43 with 51.8 seconds in the third quarter.

But Mikulencak hit a pair of free throws and then two Cougar turnovers turned into buckets by Mikulencak and Conner Lowe, extending the Panthers’ advantage to 50-43 heading into the final eight minutes.

From there, the Panthers increased their advantage to remain unbeaten and to give their coach the 600th win.

“That’s amazing – it’s awesome,” Mikulencak said. “I know he’s happy about. We’re happy about and we’re just glad we could do it with him.”

Three other Panthers scored in double figures – sophomore post Zach Lord scored 15 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter; Conner Lowe added 12 points, including a pair of 3s, and Trey Jenkins scored 10 points.

For all the success the Panthers had offensively and defensively – they forced 30 turnovers by the Cougars – they got a little careless when a lead that was hardly insurmountable around 10 points produced, perhaps, too much of a comfortable feeling.

Liberty Hill then was the team turning the ball over, and China Spring capitalizing on the other end.

Brandon Mize led the Cougars with 10 points – the only China Spring player to reach double figures. But the only 3 he hit in the game helped pull the Cougars back to the Panthers in the third quarter.

“We just got silly, got silly with the ball,” Boren said. “I like my team, but I’m still looking for the perfect game.”

Added Mikulencak: “Coach just kind of got into us and that we needed to push forward and execute our plays. … We just weren’t focused at the time on the defensive end. We weren’t executing on defense. Finally, on offense, we kind of slowed down and took the right shots and finally got away from it.”

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