Panthers adjust to stop Stafford
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
The first half Thursday was a struggle for control between Liberty Hill and Stafford in their Area-Round playoff matchup, with both teams trying to dictate the pace of play.
Stafford earned the early advantage in that struggle, but by early in the second half the Panthers’ ability to adjust paid off, leading to a 63-53 win.
“We had a bad second quarter, so we were down five going into the locker room,” said Coach Barry Boren. “The pace of the game was in favor of them.
They like the game in the forties and we like the game in the seventies.”
Trailing at the half, Boren went to work on defensive adjustments, calling on his team to step out of the normal Panther style of play.
“We made an adjustment in our full-court defense and an adjustment in our half-court defense and more than anything it was just to establish more tempo,” he said. “They were just killing us on the boards, so we were shooting threes and missing and it was just back on defense. Even though they didn’t shoot well they were getting the ball so deep into our defense that they’d shoot and miss then rebound it and put it back.”
Heading into the second half, Boren reminded his squad what a win and a loss meant at this point of the season.
“I told them it’s a two-possession game and you have a whole half to make that up, but guys, you need to play with a little sense of urgency because this is it, this is your last game unless you win,” he said. “We came out of the half and immediately went on a 7-0 run and took the lead and then we never relinquished the lead from there on out.”
Liberty Hill had been 0-for-7 from three-point range in the second quarter, but heading into the third, the Panthers adjusted their offensive approach along with their defense.
Carson Perkins was that offensive spark, scoring six in the quarter taking the ball to the basket.
“Whereas he had not been able to hit threes, he started taking the ball to the basket, and Jareck Naylor the same thing,” Boren said. “When those two guys started taking the ball to the basket we hit some timely threes.”
Perkins led all scorers with 20 points, 13 of those coming in the second half. He was 7-of-8 from the line, hitting all seven free throws attempted in the final quarter. Parker McCurdy scored 12, hitting three from beyond the arc. Naylor and Kaleb Bannon each finished with 10, with 16 of their combined 20 coming in the second half.
Others on the scoreboard were Walker Baty (7) and Cade Cole (4).
The win was the 30th of the season for the Panthers (30-6), notching another season milestone as they move closer to the state tournament.
Boren said the half-court defense he put in after the half was one the team had only run once or twice all year, and his team’s ability to execute it so well is a sign of something special.
“It was a really good effort by our kids and a tribute to them because they made the adjustments and executed what we talked about doing,” he said. “The fact that they could remember their assignments and what they could do was just phenomenal. I said, to me that’s one of the marks of a good team is that you can make an in-game adjustment and carry that out.”
Liberty Hill will play the winner of Friday’s matchup between Boerne and Fulshear. Watch the Independent’s Facebook page for details on the opponent, time and location for the next round.