Panthers fall on final shot in State Championship game

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By Keith Sparks

The Panthers found themselves on the opposite end of a last-second game winner Saturday night as they lost to Oak Cliff Faith Family in the State Championship by a final score of 53-51 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Liberty Hill came out strong in the first quarter, taking a 17-10 lead and forcing Oak Cliff to take tough shots that they were unable to make with any consistency. At the end of the first quarter, Liberty Hill led 19-17.

The second quarter was an even stronger effort from the Panthers as they started to knock down some threes and find open shots by out-executing Oak Cliff on the offensive end. Two straight three-pointers from Kaleb Bannon and Jareck Naylor ended the first half, giving Liberty Hill a 30-20 halftime lead and the momentum heading into halftime.

The Panthers held the lead for nearly the entire game headed into the fourth quarter, but Oak Cliff went on a 5-0 run to end the third quarter by way of two straight fast-break layups, the second of which was an and-one to end the quarter.

Oak Cliff was finally able to use size to their advantage in the fourth quarter, feeding the ball into the post and getting open layups after struggling to knock down jumpers early on.

The three ball also began to fall for Oak Cliff in the second half, but the Panthers continued to struggle from deep. Easily their two best three-point shooters, Carson Perkins went 1-8 from three-point range and Parker McCurdy went 1-6.

Oak Cliff went on a game-changing 12-0 run in the fourth quarter as it went from a 43-37 game in Liberty Hill’s favor to a 43-49 deficit in a matter of minutes. Two straight steals from Liberty Hill, however, got them back in it, followed by a huge three from Jareck Naylor and a layup from Walker Baty to tie it with 19 seconds left to go.

With 19 seconds left, Liberty Hill was on the opposite end that they were on Friday, forced to defend as their opponent looked for a game winner. The Panther coaching staff opted to trap at half court, leaving Oak Cliff big man Jordan Walsh wide open for the game-winning dunk as the defense failed to rotate in time.

Bannon led the way offensively for the Panthers with a team-high 13 points and three three-pointers. Naylor had 12 points of his own on 2-2 from three-point range, followed by nine from Perkins and 8 from Baty.

Liberty Hill finished their season with a 34-8 overall record.

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