Panthers beat Hyde Park to continue win streak

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By KEITH SPARKS

After a full week off for Thanksgiving, the 2-1 Panther basketball team looked to continue its win streak with a home game against Hyde Park on Tuesday.

The Panthers got some open looks from the three-point line early in the first quarter, but were unable to connect on any of them. Senior Zach Lord’s offensive rebound putback gave the Panthers their first two points of the game, but they found themselves down 10-2 with 5:00 to play in the first quarter, leading to a timeout from Head Coach Barry Boren.

As has been the case in just about every game so far this season, good things happened when the Panthers got the ball inside, and every missed three seemed to strengthen their case. As the Panthers got the ball inside, they gave themselves easy opportunities with free throws and layups.

Although the Panthers missed their first four free throw attempts, Lord and Josh Sudekum got five great looks in a row inside, two of them and-ones. The Panthers struggled to guard the perimeter, though, and were down 26-13 at the end of the first quarter.

“We keep saying that we want to get a four-quarter game,” Boren said. “We got three tonight. We didn’t play until the second quarter.”

Liberty Hill turned up the defense in the second quarter, getting steals and layups out of their full-court press to go on a 6-0 run, leading to a Hyde Park timeout. They continued to find Lord in the paint, as well, who got a number of easy looks up close as the Panthers closed the deficit to 3 midway through the second quarter. Lord finished the game with 21 points.

Liberty Hill’s Bryce Truslow was finally able to hit a three for the Panthers late in the first half, followed by layups from Sudekum and Clayton Kuhlmann to give Liberty Hill their first lead of the game at 34-33 with less than a minute left before halftime. Hyde Park was able to tie the game with a late three, bringing the halftime score to 36-36.

The third quarter saw sloppy play from both teams, as turnovers were rampant on each side. Each team struggled to score, but the Panthers were finally able to hit some jump shots that wouldn’t fall for them in the first half. The third quarter was the lowest scoring quarter for both teams, as Liberty Hill scored 12, and Hyde Park was only able to muster 6 points in the quarter.

Junior Riley Laduque gave the Panthers some breathing room with a three plus the foul, giving Liberty Hill a 43-38 lead. The Panthers also got a spark off the bench from their newly acquired seniors Garrett Wright and Carter Ware, who saw their first action on the court now that football season is officially over. Neither scored in the contest, but each of them seemed to bring a sense of physicality and intensity to the court that helped the Panthers on the defensive end of the ball.

Coach Boren explained that the physicality and intensity from the football players manifested itself in Monday’s practice, as well.

“Getting our couple of guys from football, we had our best practice yesterday that we’ve had all year,” Boren said. “Our intensity was up, and we were banging with one another.”

Laduque was able to sink another three late in the third quarter to give the Panthers a 46-38 lead and force a timeout by Hyde Park. From that point on, the Panthers never looked back.

Liberty Hill was in the double bonus with about 6:00 to play, and they seemed to live at the free throw line for essentially the entirety of the fourth quarter. The Panthers were able to pull away in the fourth, thanks to a renewed defensive intensity paired with great free throw shooting.

“I thought our defense, once we got past the first quarter, I thought we created some stuff with our defense,” Boren said. “That’s kind of what’s been missing for us.”

Kuhlmann shut the door on any kind of comeback opportunity for Hyde Park with a Eurostep finish in traffic followed by a steal and assist to Sudekum inside to give the Panthers a 62-48 lead. Sudekum finished with 21 points in the game, tied with Lord for a team-high.

A frontcourt comprised of Lord and Sudekum was something Coach Boren went with often on Tuesday, and the Panthers saw a lot of success with it. Don’t expect that combination to change any time soon.

“We’re better with Josh (Sudekum) and Zach (Lord) in the lineup together,” Boren said. “That’s just a formidable frontcourt. As long as we can cover on defense, we’re going to stick with that.”

The Panthers held that 14-point lead for the rest of the game, beating Hyde Park by a final score of 71-57 to bring their record to 3-1 on the season.

Liberty Hill beat China Spring last Tuesday by a score of 56-49. Sudekum led the Panthers against the Cougars with 22 points, followed by Lord with 16.

They’ll look to continue their win streak this weekend as they host the Liberty Hill Boys Basketball Tournament at the high school. The Panthers will play Reagan at 1 p.m. on Thursday, followed by a matchup with Odessa at 5:30 p.m. On Friday, they play Lanier at 2:30 p.m. and Hutto at 7 p.m. On Saturday at 1 p.m., the Panthers will play their last game of the tournament against EP Americas.

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