Panthers down Needville, advance to regional quarterfinals
By Scott Akanewich
Liberty Hill’s boys’ basketball squad likes to play an uptempo game.
After all, they’re not known as the “Runnin’ Panthers” for nothing.
However, against Needville on Friday in the area championship at A&M High Consolidated High School in College Station, head coach Barry Boren’s club was forced to play a slow-down game, but still managed to prevail by a 55-35 score.
Kadin Knight led the Panthers with 16 points in a game which was only 19-15 in favor of Liberty Hill at the break, but after re-establishing his offense in the second half, Boren and his charges pulled away from the Blue Jays for an easy victory.
Walker Baty came back out for the second half charged up and scored the opening two buckets of the third quarter, but Needville quickly answered back with a pair of baskets of their own, the second of which was a three by James Roberts, who led the Blue Jays with 14 points on the game.
But, after reducing the deficit to five at 25-20, Needville would never again get that close for the duration of the contest.
Carson Perkins hit a 3-pointer to close the third period with the Panthers leading by a 35-24 margin entering the fourth.
Once the final eight minutes got underway, Perkins continued to attack the basket, scoring six of his 14 points on the night in helping the Panthers close out the win.
Along with Knight’s 16 points and Perkins’ 14, Baty also added 14 to the Purple-and-Gold cause in a contest Boren was pleased to have fought through successfully, he said.
“They packed it in, which we knew they were going to do,” said Boren. “So, we knew the outside shot would be open.”
But, the Panthers failed to take advantage of an open perimeter, going only 2-of 20 from beyond the arc in the first half, which helped explain the pedestrian scoreline at the half.
So, after some halftime adjustments, Liberty Hill re-emerged from the locker room looking more like its usual self, scoring 16 and 20 points in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.
“We needed to do something different,” said Boren. “In the first half, the tempo was in their favor – it wasn’t the kind of offensive flow we wanted, but in the second, we were able to press the ball offensively and defensively. We just needed to give them a different look.”
Knight scored 11 of his game-high 16 points in the second half, which was a catalyst for his club, said Boren.
“Kadin really came alive and got going,” he said. “He scored a bunch in the second half.”
According to Perkins, the critical factor in the Panthers’ second-half surge was the defensive pressure they put on the ball.
“We just started getting more turnovers,” said Perkins. “What that allowed us to do was get points on fast-breaks and play with more energy.”
Boren said the Blue Jays presented far more of a challenge than their 11-21 record would’ve suggested.
“They were a much tougher opponent and are well-coached,” he said. “But, the game pretty much played out like it should’ve.”
Perkins added he believes he and his teammates have what it takes to make a return trip to the state championship game, with this contest simply a hurdle in the way.
“Getting back to state is the ultimate goal,” he said. “We think we have the team to do it – this game was something new, like one we haven’t had before.”
Liberty Hill (28-7) will next face Boerne (25-9) on Tuesday in the regional quarterfinals.