Lady Panthers keep rolling, remain undefeated in district with wins over Llano, Salado

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Liberty Hill’s Bethany McLeod (#10) lays out to save a loose ball into the hands of Shaylin Vickers (#12). The Panthers remained undefeated in district with decisive 63-16 and 92-21 victories over Llano and Salado. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By LANCE CATCHINGS

With a dominant 63-16 win over Llano on Tuesday, the Lady Panthers (23-3, 5-0) once again left no doubt as to who is in charge of District 19-4A. Liberty Hill Head Coach Chris Lange credited his team’s ball movement after the victory, but was disappointed in their outside shooting.

“We played fairly well and moved the ball around, but we did not shoot very well,” Lange said. “We were 1 of 19 from the three-point line, which is not normal for us. The outside shots were not falling down for us and we were wide open. It was just one of those nights. The rest of the game went pretty well. We went four for five on free throws, so we shot 80 percent, which is not bad. Three-pointers were rough, so we’ll be shooting a lot in practice.”

Sedona Prince led the way offensively with 19 points, Bethany McLeod had 15, and Kandyn Faurie added 12.

As the team prepares to host Lampasas on Friday, and Leander Glenn on Jan. 16, their focus will be on shooting and defense.

“We worked the press a little bit and worked trying to be more aggressive on defense,” Lange said. “We will work in practice a lot this week as we prepare for Lampasas and Leander Glenn. We played all 15 girls again against Llano and worked on some different lineups and arrangements. We will continue working on things as we move forward in district.”

The Liberty Hill girls defeated Salado on Jan. 6, in dominating fashion by a final score of 92-21. The Lady Panthers opened the game with a suffocating press defense, which helped them build a 15-0 lead midway into the first quarter. The Lady Panthers ended the first quarter with a 22-8 lead, then out-scored Salado 28-4 in the second quarter to build a 50-12 halftime lead. Senior guard Makinley Browder said the team plays better when it gets a fast start.

“I feel like we played really strong tonight,” Browder said. “We played as a team, and it was a really fast game. If we start out in a press, it’s going to be a quick scoring game in the beginning. We like to start off that way because it gets everyone into the game quicker. I thought our defensive pressure was good, because it caused a lot of turnovers and helped us out a lot.”

The Lady Panthers continued to use the press as they built a 71-17 lead by the end of the third quarter. Salado was completely overmatched as they were outscored 21-4 in the fourth quarter to make the final score 92-21.

Faurie led the team with 19 points, followed by Prince with 18, while Mcleod added 14 of her own.

“A lot of our points come off of turnovers,” Browder said. “Sedona plays from the back, and that helps us a lot. It allows the people in the front to be more aggressive going for steals, and we know the center has our back. That is where we get most of our fast break points from. We work on seeing the court in practice a lot. We have an advantage inside, so we know to look their first.”

The Lady Panthers shot 85 percent from the free-throw line as they connected on six of seven attempts. Lange praised his team’s defensive effort after the win.

“Overall, I was pretty happy with the intensity of our defense,” Lange said. “That is something we concentrated on this week. I thought Salado would stall a little bit more, so we’ll be expecting that next time. We knew what they had and we knew what we had. I played 15 girls tonight. I asked them to play with intensity, fire and not have let downs. We put a ton of pressure on them, and we owned the boards. We gave up 21 points, and that was a little too much. We had a few rotation errors, not communicating, but overall, I was happy.”

Liberty Hill has seen great success using their press defense against opponents, and Lange said that is something the team will continue throughout district play.

“Press-wise, it’s not bad, but the speed we will see in the playoffs is what makes me nervous,” he said. “It will be different than what we saw tonight. We made a couple of adjustments and I am not sure that I love the adjustments yet. Defensively, we are getting better. Against Salado we got after it, and against Taylor we got after it with nonstop pressure. If we can play like that all the time, we will be successful.”

At 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 12, the Lady Panthers will host Lampasas, followed by another home game at 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16, against Leander Glenn.

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