Boys ready to maul district opener Salado
By LAUREN JETTE
The Panthers look to open district action Friday night after a night off Tuesday and an 85-60 win over Waco La Vega last week.
The junior varsity got the 61-55 win, while the freshman team lost to the Pirates 62-28.
Liberty Hill got off to a hot start, building a 20-point lead in the first quarter.
An open jumper from Josh Sudekum sparked a 12-0 run for the Panthers about halfway through the quarter, before the Pirates finally found the basket with two and a half minutes left. A steal by Carson Lowe and basket put the score at 30-10 at the end of the quarter.
Sophomore call-up Riley LaDuque started the second quarter off with a three pointer as the Panthers put up 18 points to take a 48-23 lead at the break.
La Vega tried to cut the lead down in the third quarter, but the Panther defense never allowed much room for the Pirates to make a serious dent the rest of the second half.
The win restored some confidence in the Panthers after an unexpected loss to Wimberley earlier in the week, said head coach Barry Boren.
“(That was) a good game for us. We had a really disappointing loss to Wimberley the other night,” he said.
“We knew how we felt when we beat (then No. 1 ranked) Silsbee because it wasn’t expected,” Boren said.
“And I said, ‘You know what guys? Wimberley’s feeling the same way right now.’
“We said very probably that Silsbee wasn’t thinking we could beat them,” Boren said. “I’m afraid maybe we were thinking Wimberley wouldn’t beat us.”
The Panthers lost junior forward Zach Lord for a few weeks with a broken bone in his foot, and have had to make some adjustments.
“You know, when you’re an evolving team like that, you learn hard lessons. I thought I our guys answered that tonight,” Boren said.
“My approach after Tuesday was a little different. We did some things on Tuesday and Thursday that were more upbeat and up tempo and I think that kind of played into the way we played tonight,” he said. “It was a great effort and I can’t say enough good things about it.”
Even with the injuries to Lord and senior guard Conner Lowe earlier this season, the Panthers are still in a good position heading into district play this Friday against Salado.
“I think what it does, what I would like to think it does, is it speaks to the strength of our system of play, that we can plug guys in,” Boren said.
“You’re still going to try and do what you do and I think that’s what you strive for when you have a program,” Boren said. “You want to be, ‘next man up.’ Our guys have responded.”
Boren said he was looking forward to a night off this week to give the team a chance to get to work on a few things, and get a little rest before trying to match an undefeated run to the district title from last season.
“It will give us a chance to get guys going and get them back in there,” Boren said. “Then we start district. We always say this: The season is broken down into three parts — the pre-district, which gets you ready for district, and then district earns you the right to play in the playoffs.
“Of our seven losses, I think five of those could have easily been wins,” Boren said. “Of course, I grind my teeth over that, but I guess there’s nothing I can do about that now. Just hope to get better.”
The Salado Eagles are coming off a Jan. 7 60-58 win over Lorena, who the Panthers defeated earlier this season.