Lady Panthers claim 8th consecutive district title
By Lance Catchings
The Liberty Hill girls’ basketball team (18-17, 9-1) claimed its eighth consecutive district championship Tuesday night with a 71-14 win over Taylor (12-21, 2-8).
After an up-and-down pre-district schedule, this season was by no means a lock for a district title.
Liberty Hill controlled the Taylor game from the tipoff all the way through the final whistle. The Lady Panthers outscored Taylor 20-4 in the first quarter and led 40-4 at halftime. In the third quarter, LHHS outscored the Lady Ducks 15-3 to head into the fourth quarter with a 55-7 lead. LHHS kept the pressure on in the fourth quarter and added another 16 points to close out the regular season with the 71-14 victory.
Senior Ireland Sargent led the Lady Panthers on the night with 14 points. Carissa Garza had a strong night on the court, as well, scoring 10 points and coming up with multiple steals. Brooke Wright and Breon Robinson each scored eight while Jessica Holliday and Morgan Jackson tallied six each. Avery Harrell had five points, followed by Emma Hubbard and Kailey Berzin each with four. Carissa Vickers had three points, Kenzy Wise had two and Ashton Jordan had one to round out the scoring.
Sargent said she was proud of all the strides her team made this season.
“We started from the bottom, now we’re here,” Sargent laughed. “Looking back over the last 10 games, we have really progressed from when we started this season. We are starting to work together as a team, and the last 10 games have really made us better. Ever since I started playing basketball here, it has been such an honor. This team is really a family, and when I started playing, I always felt welcome. We all have one goal, and we are there to accomplish it. Ever since I have been a Panther, I know you can never be satisfied in any sport in Liberty Hill. The goal is always State, and I believe we can make it if we play together as a team.”
In their win over Eastside Memorial Friday night, the Panthers completely dominated the game, winning 92-17. Liberty Hill led 25-4 after the first quarter and 49-10 at halftime. The Lady Panthers outscored Eastside Memorial 43-7 in the second half. Eastside was overmatched in the contest, and a host of Lady Panthers got in on the scoring.
Senior Breon Robinson said although the season was challenging, she has learned and grown while in Liberty Hill.
“This season has been tough,” Robinson said. “We started out with a lot of underclassmen. None of them had really played at the varsity level, so we had to feel it out and teach each other. I think we found ourselves and learned how to play with each other by the time we got to district. I just think no one on my team wants to lose. We all have the same goal, and that is to keep winning. We have won district the past eight years, and we didn’t want to be the first team to not do that. The alumni here have high expectations, and they want us to keep building that legacy that they have built.”
Head Coach Chris Lange was extremely proud of his team for all they accomplished this season. When many teams may have thought this was a down year to take a swing at Liberty Hill, the Lady Panthers swung back.
“The newspaper called our loss to Lampasas a historic loss,” Lange said. “When we read that, it stung a little bit. We used that as motivation for the kids. It was our first loss in district since I have been here. We are 43-1 since I have been here, so we are not too upset. Losing a ball game can be beneficial to a team and bring them back down to earth. We lost a lot of those back down to earth ball games this year, losing 17 games. I always believed from one that we would still win our district. That plan has never wavered. I always felt like district was still something we could do. We lost to Lampasas on a night we couldn’t hit water falling out of a boat.”
After Lampasas, the Lady Panthers got right back to work over their next three games.
“We then go to Salado, and they beat us up physically ,and we came out on the positive side winning by two points,” Lange said. “We had to battle the entire game. I was proud of my girls being down at half, and they figured it out. We beat Eastside and we did not want to have a let down tonight. We knew Lampasas had lost to Burnet, and that put the district championship in our hands. We didn’t want to lose our last home game, so we took it upon ourselves to go to work tonight. I was really proud of how all the girls played tonight.”
The Lady Panthers played a grueling preseason but, in the end, the tough games made district play much easier to handle.
“We handled a very difficult preseason,” Lange said. “We faced roughly eight different teams that were ranked in class 5A. You had Burnet ranked in the top 25. Lampasas was ranked third in class 4A. We played Wall and lost and played Tivy and lost, but the idea during the preseason was to get better. Even after taking the beatings that we did, I still felt good about where we were. The idea was could we keep the girls engaged and understanding that we were still making progress. I am proud of this season just as I am the previous three. This took a lot of work on my part and by our players. They had to buy in to what I was saying and trust what I was saying and stick with me. In the end, we got it done, and that was a good thing.”
As of Wednesday, the Panthers were waiting to see who their first-round playoff matchup would be out of Bandera, Canyon Lake and Wimberley.