By LANCE CATCHINGS
The Liberty Hill varsity girls’ basketball team (28-3, 10-0) routed Taylor (8-23, 1-9) Friday night 97-12, and on Tuesday, the team followed suit with a 71-18 thrashing of Salado.
It was an offensive showcase against Taylor on Friday as the Lady Panthers rained down shots and scored in a myriad of ways throughout the night. 12 Lady Panthers scored on the night, including senior Heaven Dandridge, who scored 12 points on four three-point shots in only eight minutes of playing time.
“I think we played well as a team,” Dandridge said. “The spots were open, and I just felt confident in myself to shoot the ball.”
Liberty Hill opened the game with a 14-0 run and never paused to look back. At the end of the first, the Lady Panthers held a 21-7 lead. Liberty Hill outscored the Lady Ducks 32-2 in the second quarter as the starters, second and third team groups each had their way with Taylor.
Seniors Sedona Prince and Kandyn Faurie tied for a team-high 23 points on the night. Dandridge had 12, while Ireland Sargent and Kasye Bevers each dropped in 9 for the Lady Panthers. Faurie said the team has been in a groove of getting out of the gate from tipoff.
“When we start fast, we are more positive and more energetic,” Faurie said. “The bench comes off knowing they have to keep with what the starting five has done, so everyone comes into the game strong. Our bench has played really well lately. They have been putting up a lot of points the past few games, and that is what Coach Lange wanted. He didn’t just want the starters scoring, he wanted them scoring, too. We’ve had guards hitting multiple three-point shots a game, and it’s nice to see that.”
While the offensive fireworks are impressive, the defense is what really gives opponents trouble. Faurie said she and her teammates recognize that. With playoffs fast approaching, the senior said she and her teammates are conditioned and will be ready.
“We tried a new 2-2-1 half court press defense tonight, and we still have a lot of work to do in that,” Faurie said. “During playoffs, I think we know we need to go out strong and trust coach to pull us when we need a quick break. Most of us have our feet under us, and we work pretty hard in practice, so I think we’ll be good to go when the time comes.”
Head Coach Chris Lange said he was very pleased with the total team effort in the win over Taylor.
“We moved the ball really well and ran some set plays that were effective,” he said. “Defensively, we moved well as a team, but of course there were a few moments where we could’ve done a little bit more. We tried something new going with the 2-2-1 defense, and we’ll continue to work on that. All 15 girls came in and did a pretty good job. Our starting five did their normal stuff. Then you take your third group and they come in and go crazy. too. Heaven played eight minutes and had 12 points, which is pretty nice.”
Shooting has been a major focus for the Lady Panthers the past few weeks, and the hard work is showing off in games. The team hit 23 three-point shots in two games against Burnet and Taylor.
“Our outside shooting is starting to come around,” Lange said. “We are doing a lot of shooting in practice, and working on swinging the ball and shooting and skip passing and shooting. We hit 10 three-pointers tonight, and that’s a good sign. If we can add the three-point shot out there, it will open up the post position a lot for us.”
If the Lady Panthers can continue the upward trend of knocking down outside shots with Prince in the post and Faurie attacking, the team will be a force throughout the playoffs.
“Three-point shooting is needed, but it does not have to be the end-all be-all for us,” Lange said. “Hopefully, we are good enough that we can handle a bad night shooting, but it helps if we can knock them down. Against Burnet, we shot really well from the outside, but not so much from the inside, even though we won by plenty. When we get to the second and third round of the playoffs, we will face teams that are really athletic and can cover a lot of distance on the floor. We will have to swing the ball and knock it down quickly.”
The Lady Panthers host Llano Friday night in their final regular season home game of the season. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. It will be Parents’ Night, so the team will have extra motivation to continue their upward shooting trend.