Brazosport stuns No. 4 Liberty Hill, 62-56

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By BOB VARMETTE

COLUMBUS – This time, the run never came.

The Liberty Hill Runnin’ Panthers were no strangers to slow starts. But they had always been able to survive their foibles and use a timely run to re-establish their dominance.

But Class 4A No. 4 Liberty Hill picked a bad night to play one of its worst games of the season. The Brazosport Exporters slowly built a double-digit lead in the second half and then held off the Panthers for a 62-56 win Friday night at Columbus High School in a Class 4A area-round game.

“It was just a night filled with missed opportunities on our part,” Liberty Hill coach Barry Boren said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well, we didn’t shoot from the free-throw line well, we missed put-backs. And anytime there was a loose ball, they got to it. We didn’t get beat by a bad team. We got beat by a pretty good team.”

A good team that played its best game of the season, Brazosport coach Ondra Waddy said. The Exporters put three players in double figures – led by 16 points from sophomore guard Chris Rossow.

Genesis Green added 15 and Angel Trevino ended with 12 points, and two other players finished with nine points – Kevin Davis and Noah Taylor.

But quickness of the defense of the Exporters (21-12) was what won this day.

“Our foundation is our defense – we base everything on that,” Waddy said. “We knew they were a tough team. We knew that (Zach Lord) was a load and we were going to have our hands full with him. We knew they had 3-point threats. Our guys just came out with a lot of intensity.”

Lord was a load. The 6-foot-9 sophomore post scored a game-high 21 points – 12 in the second half as the Panthers (32-1) desperately tried to find a way to draw level with the Exporters.

Trailing by six, 34-28, at halftime, Liberty Hill got as close as 39-37 early in the third quarter. But Brazosport responded with an 18-4 run to close out the quarter.

The run was keyed by seven points from Green, including a 3. When Taylor scored with 21 seconds left in the third quarter, the Exporters led 57-41 going into the final eight minutes.

The Panthers closed on the Exporters and cut the gap to six at 59-53 on Slater Foust’s short-range bucket with 1:20 in the game.

But they never found a way to get past the Exporters’ advantage in quickness and catch up.

“We were able to close out on their shooters,” Waddy said. “We were able to also to go down and double down when we needed to on (Lord). Our speed is one of our strengths, if not our No. 1 strength. But we’ve got some skilled players on this team, too. Tonight, we hit some big shots and we had some guys that made plays.”

The Panthers, in contrast, couldn’t make the shots or make the plays they needed to make to take back the lead from the upstart Exporters. Brazosport’s speed killed Liberty Hill, even if Lord punished the Exporters’ postmen, eventually putting all four of the players he went up against in foul trouble.

Callen Mikulencak added 16 points in his final game in a Liberty Hill uniform, but scored only five in the second half. Conner Lowe added nine points – all on 3s, including an NBA-range 3 from the left wing at the horn that produced the final margin.

“As poorly as we played, they beat us by six points,” Boren said. “It just wasn’t our night.”

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