Lady Panthers cut down the net and are state bound after defeating Brazosport

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By TAYLOR GRAFFT

KINGSVILLE–If we’ve learned one thing about the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers basketball team this season, it’s never to count them out.

It didn’t look good for the Lady Panthers who were down 10 points with 5:29 left in the third quarter.

But there’s just something about this team that’s special. They make you believe anything is possible and that they’ll find a way to come out on top by the final buzzer.

Saturday afternoon was no exception when Liberty Hill defeated Brazosport 69-56 in the Region IV finals in Kingsville.

The Lady Panthers’ motto all season has been ‘Press All Out’, and on Saturday they pressed to the finish.

Before the start of the fourth quarter Coach Matt Kirschner made the girls hold hands in the huddle and told his girls exactly how he wanted the final eight minutes to play out if they wanted to win.

“I told them they had to play for each other,” Kirschner said. “I told them that I knew they had a 20-point quarter in them, but they had to show it now. It was because I believed in them and they believed in each other, that they scored 28 (points in the fourth quarter).”

Much like their incredible comeback against Columbia in the Area round, the Lady Panthers put together a special run that started midway through the third quarter and finished in the fourth with a double-digit winning margin.

A big part of that comeback was free throws. In the fourth quarter the Lady Panthers were clutch, especially senior guard Ashlee Walker. Walker made eight free throws in the final quarter, only missing one.

Much like their win over Bay City in the regional quarterfinals, Kirschner’s team forced their opponent’s best player to foul out during crunch time of a close game, and as a result swinging momentum in their favor.

With 2:35 left in the final quarter and the Lady Panthers leading 58-54, Brazosport’s Jasmyne Harris picked up her fifth foul and had to sit the rest of the game. Harris had been the Lady Exporters biggest threat all afternoon, scoring 24 points before fouling out of the game.

Liberty Hill also suffered a huge loss in the fourth quarter with 6:03 remaining. Senior point guard Shelby Whitten fouled out trying to steal the ball on a full-court press.

While Whitten was noticeably upset with herself for fouling out of the game, she didn’t let that frustration affect her long. Instead she was vocal from the bench and helped her teammates to victory by being that senior leader and captain.

Senior Baylie Bevers was also a key player for Liberty Hill down the stretch, finishing the final quarter with three steals and four points. The senior guard reflected on how the team got their win.

“The fourth quarter is usually our strongest moment,” Bevers said. “We had to really come together because it was so close going into the fourth. We knew (Harris) had four fouls and that two more of their major players had fouls. So if we could get them to foul out then the game would fall in our favor.”

“This team is a special team,” Bevers said when asked about moving on to state. “There’s no other team like it. We have chemistry like nothing else. Our inside game is strong and our outside game is strong. There’s really no way to shut us down completely.”

Junior Bridgett House is known for her high-energy play and in the final she collected two rebounds and made three free throws.

“It was like a dream, just amazing.” House said when asked about getting the win and cutting down the net.

House reflected on what goes through her head when stepping up to the foul line in pressure moments in the fourth quarter, and how that affects you mentally.

“Nothing,” House said. “I try to block out everything and focus on getting the ball in the net.”

Saturday’s victory means the Liberty Hill is state bound and will play on Friday, March 6 in the Alamodome in San Antonio.

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