Panthers’ season ends in regional quarters against Boerne

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By Scott Akanewich

SAN MARCOS — During the first quarter of Liberty Hill’s Class 4A regional quarterfinal against Boerne in San Marcos on Tuesday, it looked as if the Panthers were still well on track for a return trip to the state finals again this season.

Smothering defense. Causing turnovers. Pressuring the opposition into mistakes.

However, following an opening period that saw Liberty Hill take a commanding 21-10 lead, the Greyhounds recovered and went on to end the Panthers’ season with a 57-54 victory.

The game began with the Panthers applying their trademark full-court pressure, which resulted in a quick 5-0 run to open the scoring, as Walker Weems hit a bucket on an assist from Walker Baty before Kaleb Bannon hit a three without reply from Boerne.

But, it wasn’t long before the Greyhounds got on the board themselves with a pair of free throws and a basket to close the deficit to 5-4.

At that point, Baty scored underneath and Carson Perkins hit a 3-pointer after a Cole Ondrasek steal.

Baty then scored the next three Liberty Hill baskets, as Boerne had no answer inside against the Panthers’ big man.
Finally, Weems drained a three and Perkins converted an and-one to open up an 11-point advantage after one.

But, something seemed to happen as the second quarter began.

Suddenly, the Panthers weren’t as aggressive as they had been in the early going and Boerne found their rhythm, something Liberty Hill head Coach Barry Boren attributed to a letdown from his side.

“We just let prosperity get the best of us,” said Boren, of a period in which the Panthers were outscored by a 19-11 margin. “But, we were still up by three at the half.”

Indeed, the Panthers held a 32-29 lead at the break, as Baty had nine points, to go with Perkins’ eight and Weems’ seven.

At the outset of the third period, Baty picked up where he left off in the first half, quickly collecting a pair of rebounds and hitting the front end of back-to-back, one-and-one chances.

Weems and Bannon then hit back-to-back 3-pointers and the Panthers’ lead was back to nine points at 40-31, but that was as large as the advantage would be for the remainder of the game, as Boerne continued to chip away, only trailing by four at 44-40 entering the fourth.

After three periods, the trio of Baty, Perkins and Weems had combined for 33 of Liberty Hill’s 44 points, but only Weems managed to score in the final period – a single bucket which put the Panthers up, 52-50 with 1:38 left in regulation.

But, Baty picked up his fifth foul with 3:05 left and could only watch from the bench after fouling out as the contest took a decidedly-Boerne shift in momentum, said Boren.

“After Walker fouled out, it changed the entire complexion of the game,” he said. “Because then we didn’t have an inside game.”

Liberty Hill found itself still up by a single point at 54-53 with 1:25 remaining after Hunter Clayton scored off a nice pass from Kadin Knight, but it was the final time the Panthers would lead as the Greyhounds would score the final four points of the game to secure victory and a berth in the regional semifinals.

In the aftermath of his club’s exit from the postseason, Boren credited the opposition.

“Boerne is definitely a better team than the one we beat last year,” he said of the Greyhounds, who the Panthers had defeated at the same stage of the playoffs last season, 63-38. “Our half-court defense wasn’t as good this season as it was last year, but when you usually score a lot of points, it doesn’t matter.”

Perkins was held well below his season average, as the skilled senior guard scored 10 points on the game, but Boren attributed that to the Greyhounds’ game plan in defending the sharpshooter.

“We hadn’t faced a zone like the one they played tonight all season,” he said. “Carson had a man on him at all times and another one underneath to help – there was no way they were going to let him beat them.”

Joaquin Gonzalez led Boerne with a game-high 15 points in the victory.

Baty lead the Panthers with 13 points, while Weems added 12 and Perkins 10.

Liberty Hill finished the season with an overall record of 28-8, including a district championship resulting from a 9-1 mark.
Boren said all he can do is get over the defeat – but it will take some time.

“I’ll be in a state of depression for two or three weeks over this,” he said. “Kids are resilient – the players will be over it by tomorrow – adults aren’t – that’s just how I am.”

Liberty Hill 55, Needville 35
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.”

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