New coach set to lead Lady Panther basketball

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By Lauren Jette

It’s a new season, a new team and a new coach for the Lady Panthers basketball team, which will tipoff at Georgetown East View Tuesday.

Head Coach Chris Lange takes over for Matt Kirschner, who left to coach at Melissa ISD after last season’s run to the state semifinals, where Liberty Hill lost to Abilene Wylie 53-42.

“I’ve been coaching about 23 years, but this is the first time to actually be a head coach. I’ve been a varsity assistant, but having it all to myself is a little different. It’s a challenge,” Lange said.

“It’s going good. We’re changing a few things from last year, so on that side of it, some of the girls are having to learn a few new things. Some of the ways I want to attack things are a little different than they are used to, so we’re just making those changes.”

Lange is in his eighth year at Liberty Hill, and most recently coached at the junior high.

Tuesday’s game will be the first chance the Lady Panthers get to see where they are, as preseason scrimmages were cancelled for various reasons, Lange explained.

“I think we’re definitely excited about the season, we’re excited about this first game. It gets a little old beating up on each other,” he said.

“We had a couple scrimmages that other schools dropped just because of new coaches or whatever, so we didn’t get those scrimmages in like I would have liked.”

Because he hasn’t gotten to put his players in a game situation yet, Lange hasn’t firmed up his starting lineup.

“The starting lineup is still up in the air. I’m still looking at different rotations and trying different things in practice. It should be decided probably by Monday or Tuesday next week for sure, so we’ll go from there,” Lange said.

“Like I tell the girls, it’s not set in stone, just because we start out this way, it may be different by the time we get to our first district game, especially with the sophomores that are on the junior varsity right now. There’s a couple girls there right now who might work their way to the top and help us out this year, you never know.”

One big advantage this year’s team has is leadership and experience thanks to eight seniors.

“We are loaded with seniors,” Lange said.

“Amanda Boliek, Megan Huppee, Bridgett House, my daughter, Autumn Lange, she’s going to be there, so that’s going to be a little different there. Sarah Buck. We have a lot coming back.”

Not only will their experience help the team, but Lange has also worked with these girls before.

“The good thing is, I’ve coached them all before. I coached them at the junior high, so I got a chance to coach them in basketball seventh and eighth grade year, so there’s a familiarity to having those same girls, but it’s nice to have them, they know how to play,” Lange said.

“I think the biggest thing for them right now is learning how to play a little bit differently than how they are used to playing, so that’s what I’m trying to get them to push in a different direction a little bit. Sometimes that can be a little bit difficult, but they are great girls, so it’s a positive thing.”

While teams are well aware of the high expectations placed on them at Liberty Hill, Lange prefers to keep season goals within reach, and grow them as they are met.

“I love the goal question because for everyone, state is the ultimate goal. I think that goes for any coach out there, that’s what they want to do,” Lange said.

“But if you start looking at state as being the only goal you have, you’re setting yourself up for failure because there’s only one team from each classification that wins it, so you got to start out here and win the first game.

“That’s what I tell the girls, right now, we’re just worrying about that first game, then when we get to district, we’ll try and start worrying about winning district,” he added.

“One game at a time again. If you can keep going one game at a time, the sky’s the limit. That’s the ultimate goal: to push it every game a little more and see how far we can go. Everybody has a high expectation for these girls right now, so it’s tough.”

The Lady Panthers will get to experience their first action Tuesday at East View. Varsity is set to tipoff at 6:45 p.m.

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