By KEITH SPARKS
The Runnin’ Panthers remained undefeated in district play on Tuesday with a 70-53 win over Llano, thanks in large part to their potent outside shooting which led to 11 threes as a team.
Liberty Hill took control of the game quickly, jumping out to a 22-10 lead at the end of the first quarter behind 11 points from Parker McCurdy, including three triples. Carson Perkins and David Basalla each hit a three in the quarter, as well.
The rest of the game was more evenly matched, but the Panthers’ early lead was insurmountable. After Llano won the second quarter, the Panthers’ halftime lead was cut to 37-28. The Panthers won each of the next two quarters by four points, ultimately holding off the Yellowjackets for their third straight district win.
McCurdy led the way offensively with 21 total points, followed by Neil Stephens with 15 and Perkins with 14.
Although the outcome of the game was never in question, Liberty Hill Head Coach Barry Boren admitted that it wasn’t pretty, but credited his team’s outside shooting once Llano dropped into a zone defense.
“We won by 17, but it was ugly,” Boren said. “Llano is better than they’ve been, but they tried to zone us and we hit 11 threes.”
The Panthers got a slower start in Friday’s game against Salado, but a big second half led to a blowout victory in favor of Liberty Hill.
After holding a 29-24 halftime lead, Liberty Hill won the second half 54-31, scoring 25 in the third and 29 in the fourth. Senior Riley LaDuque scored 10 of his 13 total points in the fourth quarter alone.
One of the biggest reasons for their dominant second half, according to Boren, was Stephens’ performance once Salado’s starting center got into foul trouble. Stephens finished with a game-high 25 points, 11 of which he scored in the second half.
“We were down in the first quarter by six, then I think we were up six in the second quarter, but in the third quarter, we kind of opened it up,” Boren said. “We finished winning by 28 points. Neil had 25 points, and the turn of the game was when their post man got in foul trouble. Then they tried to guard Neil with a backup and he just went to work on him.”
Boren credited the decision making of Perkins, his sophomore point guard, who finished the game with 13 assists and zero turnovers, as well as Stephens’ performance on the glass as he grabbed 15 total rebounds.
In addition to Stephens’ 25 points and LaDuque’s 13, Perkins added 15 and McCurdy added 14.
Boren praised his team’s ability to adjust on defense in both the Salado and Llano games, which forced each opponent to make mistakes on the offensive end.
“Two completely different types of games, but in both games, we made a nice defensive adjustment to kind of stop what they were doing,” Boren said.
At 8:00 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 12, the Panthers will take on Lampasas at home, followed by a matchup on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at home against Leander Glenn.