Runnin’ Panthers continue to find tournament success

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By KEITH SPARKS

After going 3-1 in the St. Dominic Savio “Eagle Classic” Boys Varsity tournament over the weekend, the Panthers continued to find success with a 67-42 win over Lorena on Monday night en route to a 9-6 record on the season. Clayton Kuhlmann led the Panthers with 20 points, while Zach Lord and Josh Sudekum poured in 13 apiece.

The Panthers started the weekend’s Eagle Classic tournament off with a 64-49 win against Crockett last Friday afternoon, led by 15 points from Ethan Hershberger and 11 from Riley LaDuque.

Their second game on Friday night was a 66-61 loss to St. Mary’s Hall. Liberty Hill held a 4-point lead at the half, but were outscored 29-20 in the second half. Sudekum led the Panthers with 21 points, followed by Kuhlmann with 12.

“I felt like we played well below our capability,” Panthers’ Head Coach Barry Boren said about the loss to St. Mary’s Hall. “At one point we had a 13-point lead, and it was just one that got away from us.”

On Saturday afternoon, the Panthers got a hard-fought 60-58 win against Conference-5A opponent Dripping Springs. According to Coach Boren, this was one of the few games so far this season where the Panthers played up to their full potential. They were led by Zach Lord with 14 and Bryce Truslow with 13. Lord went 8 of 10 from the free-throw line, while Truslow and freshman Carson Perkins finished with 3 three-pointers each.

“Finally, I felt like we won a game that maybe we shouldn’t have won, against Dripping Springs,” Boren said. “We battled, and that was a really nice win.”

Their final game of the tournament was a comeback win against the host team, St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School. The Panthers found themselves down by 4 at halftime, but outscored Savio 32-19 in the second half, winning by a final score of 53-44.

“We come out tonight, we’re playing against the home team, and it was one of those things where everybody was kind of looking at one another, and we weren’t really playing together very well,” Boren said about the Panthers’ less-than-stellar first half. “It’s one of those deals where you feel like it’s an opponent that you ought to be able to just kind of flow a little bit, but there was no flow. Early, we lost guys for wide-open shots. We look up and we’re down 6-0. The first half was kind of that.”

The varsity basketball team, including the coaching staff, is going through somewhat of a learning curve this season. In the past, the Panthers have been able to rely on their quickness to apply full-court pressure in order to disrupt opposing offenses. This year, however, two of Liberty Hill’s main pieces, Lord and Sudekum, are better suited to play in the half-court.

“This team is going to play differently than our other teams,” Boren said, “and it’s because we have those two big kids. We can’t just run and press, because those guys can’t cover the floor that way. It makes no sense to shoot transition shots and miss without us giving those guys a chance to touch the ball. The result is you get games in the 50s.”

Coach Boren explained that for the Panthers to have success, his players will have to learn how to play their roles more effectively to maximize their potential, specifically by getting Lord and Sudekum more touches on the offensive end, which has been a recipe for success.

“Hopefully, our guys are going to realize that playing this way with this team is going to require guys to have roles,” Boren said. “Hopefully, they’re going to be able to accept and flourish in their roles. The good part about it is when we’re playing and doing what we’re supposed to be doing, those two big guys playing together is a hard combination.”

After playing six games in as many days, the Panthers’ schedule is set to settle down a little bit over the holidays. The Panthers will have a week-long break between Monday’s game against Lorena and their next game at La Vernia on Dec. 19.

After their game against La Vernia, the Panthers have nine days without games, followed by another tournament at Bowie High School on Dec. 28.

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