Panthers hold off Grey Wolves
By Paul Livengood
Liberty Hill girls played in their most physical basketball game of the season so far last Friday night.
The Lady Panthers walked away from the scrappy game against the Grey Wolves of Shoemaker with a 72-58 victory, but the game was much tighter than the score suggests.
Liberty Hill started the game off on a 17-5 run with its hot shooting. The Panthers started the game six-of-nine from the floor, including two-for-two from three-point range.
The defensive pressure was up and junior point guard Bethany McLeod was firing on all cylinders on the defensive end. McLeod had five steals in the first half alone, and finished the game with nine.
“That’s what (McLeod) gives us,” Head Coach Chris Lange said. “She’s going to give us that every night. She is in your face. We give her a hard time about getting upset when she makes a mistake, but even when she makes a mistake, it’s 100 miles per hour, go, go, go. And you know she is going to give you everything she has.”
McLeod’s steals led to easy buckets on the other end, where the point guard found her teammates for easy layups. McLeod recorded eight assists on the night.
The main beneficiaries of McLeod’s feeds were junior forward Kandyn Faurie and junior center Sedona Prince.
Faurie and Prince scored 29 and 26 points, respectively. The duo did most of its damage down low in the paint area, with Faurie cleaning up the glass and getting put backs while Prince’s height advantage was put to use in set plays.
“We don’t have to run any set plays for (Faurie),” Lange said. “She just does whatever, she gets at all the junk, the cleanup, the rebounds, and she’s getting in there.”
Attacking the inside the way the Panthers did put them to the free throw line quite a bit. Liberty Hill shot 20-for-28 from the free throw line, mainly due to Prince and Faurie, who made 18 out of 21 between the two of them.
Prince’s presence in the paint was paramount in this game, as well.
Standing head and shoulders above the Grey Wolves’ players, the junior center used her size to her advantage on the boards and also defensively. Prince grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked seven shots against Shoemaker.
Liberty Hill led 38-25 at the half, but Shoemaker was poised for a comeback. The Grey Wolves outscored the Panthers 20-15 in the third, powered by three buckets from three-point land at the hands of junior small forward Mauricea Mathis. Mathis led all Grey Wolves scorers with 21 points.
Going into the fourth, the Panther lead was cut to eight, and before too long, down to five. Liberty Hill led Shoemaker 55-50 early in the fourth, and Lange called a timeout to galvanize the troops.
“Just relax,” Lange said of his message to his team in that timeout. “I told them, ‘trust your offense, trust what you’ve been taught’. It was more of a couple sloppy plays here and there. We didn’t close out on some threes.”
The Panthers made their adjustments and fired back from that point on. They stuck to their guns, kept feeding the ball inside, and got to the free throw line. The Panther lead had reestablished itself to 10-plus and Liberty Hill held that line for the rest of the game.
When the clock read “0:00”, Lange had gotten just what he asked for: a tough challenging win.
“These are the types of games I’ve been asking for when I did the schedule,” Lange said. “I want to be pushed, knocked around. You know, I didn’t get a couple girls in, you know I don’t like that part of it, but in the night it’s about the team and that’s what I’ve been trying to stress to these kids.”
Liberty Hill continued its tough non-district schedule this week with another 6A opponent, Round Rock McNeil (1-2) on Nov. 21, and China Spring (1-2) on Nov. 22.