LHHS takes district championship with wins over Lampasas, Burnet
By Keith Sparks
On Tuesday night against Lampasas, the Runnin’ Panthers decided their own fate. Holding a one-game lead for first place in district, all the Panthers had to do was win to ensure their district championship. They had no problem doing so, beating the Badgers by a final score of 66-46.
The Panthers led by only two at halftime, but some second-half adjustments, particularly on the defensive end, allowed them to run away with it. Liberty Hill held Lampasas to just six points in the third quarter, increasing their lead to 10 headed into the fourth. In the fourth quarter, the Panthers had their highest-scoring quarter of the game with 21 points to Lampasas’ 11.
Point guard Carson Perkins led Liberty Hill in scoring with 19, followed by Kaleb Bannon with 11 and Cade Cole with 9.
Last Friday, Liberty Hill won in a blowout over Burnet to celebrate Senior Night, where seniors Parker McCurdy, Jareck Naylor, and Cade Cole were celebrated for the final time at the LHHS gym.
Head Coach Barry Boren has watched this senior class since they were in junior high, and he said their development has been a joy to watch, not only as athletes, but as men off the court.
“They’ve developed as ball players, but here’s what I told their parents, ‘What pleases me more than anything is how they’ve developed as young men,’” Boren said. “We can sit and have a conversation. We can talk about different things. That’s why you coach young men, because you want to have relationships, and it has to go beyond just basketball. I really believe that that’s the reason that years after they’re finished playing, they still come back. They still want to give back, and I just think that it’s part of that heritage, tradition, whatever you want to call it.”
Boren also went into specifics on how each of his seniors has improved on the court.
“When I watched them in the eighth grade, they all had skills, but they just weren’t refined at all,” Boren said. “Parker was tiny. He could shoot, but he couldn’t get a shot for himself. You see him now, he can elevate, he can just plant and go up. He can shake a guy off the dribble. He couldn’t do that as an eighth-grader. Cade was a two guard, and now he’s playing the post. He was tiny. He shot a set shot from his chest and wasn’t brave enough to take a charge. Now look at him. He’s taken 25, 26 charges on the season. Jareck was always a shooter, but he was unwilling to stick his head in there. He gets the crap knocked out of him right there at the end of the game.”
Liberty Hill led Burnet 31-18 at halftime, but Boren continued to see some mistakes that he had identified in practice the day before.
“I kind of got on to the guys yesterday about not being focused,” Boren said. “Right before the half, we took that shot too early and it resulted in a fast break for them, then we tried to fit it in there and it got tipped out of bounds, so I told them at halftime, I said, ‘Look guys, that’s that part of practice that I was fussing at you about yesterday.’”
At halftime, Boren brought up his seniors’ last game at LHHS as motivation for the rest of his team, and they took it to heart.
“Going into the second half, I said ‘Look, this second half, we want to make a statement for our three seniors, because this is the last time they’ll play on this court,’ and they did, didn’t they?” Boren said.
Perkins and McCurdy, in particular, stepped their games up at home last Friday, scoring 24 and 26 points, respectively, as McCurdy knocked down seven three-pointers and Perkins scored 17 points in the second half alone.
“I’m just pleased with our team, and certainly our guard play is our strong suit,” Boren said. “I thought we did a decent job defensively tonight.”
For the umpteenth time this season, Boren mentioned how enjoyable this team is to coach.
“The ones that are with us now are a good group of kids,” Boren said. “They’re fun to coach. They make mistakes, but you know what, for the most part, they own those mistakes. I’m really happy with them.”
Prior to their win over Lampasas on Tuesday, Boren noted a quote they keep in the locker room.
“If you go in the locker room, you’ll see a thing that has a crown and 27-4A, and it says ‘Nothing meaningful comes free,’” Boren said. “You’ve got to earn it. We’re going to try to push through and earn this district championship. We’ve got a big one on Tuesday night.”
The Panthers did earn it Tuesday night, and now wait to see what their first-round playoff matchup holds.