By PAUL LIVENGOOD
Liberty Hill won its final two games to secure the team’s fifth straight district title, and the Lady Panthers finish the season with a 30-2 overall record and a perfect 12-0 district record.
Liberty Hill will be set to play either Smithville or Giddings in the first round of the playoffs, depending on results from the two teams’ final games. Whoever finishes in fourth place in District 19 is who the Lady Panthers will play in the first round.
In the regular season finale, the Lady Panthers had one more tango with the Lampasas Badgers. Liberty Hill defeated Lampasas 84-21 in Lampasas last month. Tuesday, the team won again by the exact same margin, beating the Badgers by a final score of 88-25.
“I’m very happy that we won,” Head Coach Chris Lange said. “I knew if we did our job, then we would be fine. We came out, and we played pretty sluggish in some areas, but overall it was good. It’s always nice to win district games, of course, but we understand that it’s those next couple games that are the most important.”
Per usual, Liberty Hill pulled out to a large lead early against the district opponent. The Lady Panthers drew first blood with a routine 18-foot turnaround jumper from junior center Sedona Prince, assisted by Kandyn Faurie.
Then, it was only a matter of time before the steals came in bunches, along with the fast break layups that shortly followed.
In one sequence during the first quarter, the Lady Panthers managed to collect four steals back-to-back-to-back-to-back—all but one being converted into fast break transition layups.
The Lady Panthers extended their lead to 45-8 by halftime, and the game was all but over.
In the second half, everyone on the roster saw playing time, and the Lady Panthers shifted their focus to executing all their plays and concepts for the playoffs. When the teams get tougher, Liberty Hill needs to be ready.
“We are looking forward to the competition starting to ramp up a little bit more. That is definitely going to be fun,” Lange said. “The goal is to try to take it back to where we were last year and go a step further, and that’s tough.”
Faurie led the way with 22 points, while Prince, Andrea House, and Shaylin Vickers scored in double digits, as well.
By now, every team expects Faurie and Prince to get theirs and light up the stat sheet, but House and Vickers have been “x factors” thus far for the Lady Panthers. The two guards have grown into their own and improved tremendously, according to Lange.
The second-year coach has been quoted in the past as calling Vickers the “unsung hero” who does the little things for him, and Tuesday he shared similar sentiments on the growth and improvement of House, as well.
“I thought as the season progressed, certain people have improved—for example, Andrea,” Lange said. “She wasn’t happy about missing some layups tonight, but somewhere during that Whataburger tournament, you started to see some patience, and just stepping up and handling her role. I’ve been really proud of her to watch that develop.”
Liberty Hill entered last Friday’s game against Llano with two games left to go in the regular season, and the Yellowjackets were no match for the Panthers.
Liberty Hill defeated Llano 77-16. Only two other times all season had the Lady Panthers held a team to fewer points: Salado (15) and Blanco (15).
The scoring production was spread amongst the team, with four Lady Panthers scoring in double figures and six players with eight points or more.
Prince was one block shy of a triple-double, tallying 15 points, 14 rebounds and nine blocks. Cheney, House and Faurie were the other double-digit scorers with 14, 13, and 10 points, respectively.
“We played pretty well at Llano on Friday,” Lange said. “We did what we were supposed to do. The girls stayed focused and got the job done.”