Runnin’ Panthers back on track after victories over Taylor, Salado

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Senior Clayton Kuhlmann (#12) goes for a reverse layup through two Salado defenders on Tuesday. Kuhlmann led the Runnin’ Panthers with 18 points in the contest, scoring 10 in the fourth quarter. (Alex Rubio Photo)

Senior Clayton Kuhlmann (#12) goes for a reverse layup through two Salado defenders on Tuesday. Kuhlmann led the Runnin’ Panthers with 18 points in the contest, scoring 10 in the fourth quarter. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By KEITH SPARKS

After dropping two district matchups in a row to Lampasas and Burnet, the Panthers were able to get back on track against Taylor and Salado with consecutive victories.

Liberty Hill got off to a slow start at home against Salado on Tuesday, scoring only 8 points in the first quarter. Luckily, Salado started off slow as well, scoring only 6 in the first quarter.

“We started off slow,” said Panthers’ Head Coach Barry Boren, “but we got going. Carson (Perkins) played pretty well, and we need that out of him.”

Both teams found their rhythm in the second quarter, as jump shots started to fall on each end. Panthers’ freshman point guard Perkins, in particular, had an easy time finding the bottom of the net from distance in the second quarter, during which he had three three-pointers, each swishing through without touching the rim. Perkins finished with 14 points and four threes, overall.

“Finding an offensive rhythm is like good music,” Boren said. “Nobody has to say, ‘Well, that’s good music.’ It’s just got a beat to it. When you’re playing well offensively, there’s a rhythm. There’s a beat. When somebody takes a bad shot, it’s like when somebody hits a bad note on the horn, you know.”

The Panthers pressed Salado hard on Tuesday night, forcing turnover after turnover that led to layups for the Panthers on the other end. After opting not to press against Lampasas and Burnet, Boren was eager to get back to his zone press.

“When we played Burnet, we ran back and got in the half-court and played man-to-man,” Boren said. “That’s really not who we are, so (tonight) we tried to pressure them full-court. We tried to change our pressure a little bit. We made about three different adjustments, and that’s what we’ve been working on.”

The Panthers ran their full-court press almost the entire second half.

Senior Clayton Kuhlmann was the most obvious beneficiary of the press, finishing a number of open layups after Salado turnovers. Kuhlmann led the Panthers with 18 points, 10 of which he scored in the fourth quarter.

“We said that we wanted to play the way that I like to play,” Boren said. “Playing this way involves more kids. I just feel like one way or the other, from here on out, I’m going to try to keep everybody engaged.”

The Panthers were also able to take advantage of their size in the second half, giving senior Zach Lord a number of opportunities in the paint. Lord was fouled time and time again, and he made the most of his chances at the free-throw line. Lord finished with 15 points while connecting on 9 of 10 free-throw attempts.

Last Friday, the Panthers played an away game at Taylor High School against the Ducks in their second matchup of the season.

The Panthers started off slow against the Ducks, as well, finding themselves down by five at the end of the first quarter after giving up 22 points.

Liberty Hill followed up their mediocre first quarter with a massive 34-point second quarter, though, and held a 51-35 lead going into halftime, thanks in large part to an eight-point second quarter from Kuhlmann, who finished the game with 16 points.

Josh Sudekum led the Panthers with 22 points against Taylor last Friday, and Bryce Truslow finished with 15 and three three-pointers.

The Panthers are now 16-12 overall and 6-2 in district. They’ll have a chance to improve upon their district record on Friday at Llano High School at 6:30 p.m. Next Tuesday, they’ll have a shot at redemption against Lampasas at home at 6:30 p.m.

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