By KEITH SPARKS
The Panthers celebrated Parents’ Night on Tuesday, as each one of the varsity players and their parents’ names were announced as they made their way to center court for photos prior to their matchup with Lampasas.
After falling to Lampasas in their previous matchup by a buzzer beating three in overtime, the Panthers were looking for revenge Tuesday night. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the Badgers were looking to spoil Parents’ Night.
Last time the Panthers played the Badgers, Liberty Hill Head Coach Barry Boren opted to stay away from his typical full-court zone press, instead dropping back in a half-court man-to-man defense, which is unusual for the Panthers. On Tuesday, they went back to doing what they do best, though the results were similar.
“We were going to play the way that we play,” Boren said. “Their coach coached better than me, their team played better than us, and we lost. That’s just it. No excuses.”
The Panthers played their full-court zone press for the majority of the game, and it worked nearly to perfection during the first three quarters. Liberty Hill was able to capitalize on a number of turnovers in the backcourt for layups and extra possessions.
Liberty Hill’s high-pressure defense also led to early foul trouble, though, putting the Badgers in the bonus early in the second quarter.
The Panthers held their largest lead of the game at three points after senior center Zach Lord swished two midrange jumpers in a row, giving Liberty Hill a 19-16 lead late in the second quarter. Lord finished with a team-high 12 points.
The Badgers were able to capitalize on the Panthers’ early foul trouble, getting to the free-throw line often. They were able to tie the game at 24-24 before halftime.
Liberty Hill seemed to have the momentum late in the third quarter, until Lampasas connected on a massive alley-oop from the top of the key to their senior center Daniel Hurst, who finished with a powerful dunk that sent the Badger fans into a frenzy and put Lampasas up by two.
Down only two points at the end of the third quarter, the Panthers scored just four points in the fourth, due in no small part to an uncharacteristically large number of turnovers. Coach Boren attributed those turnovers to impatience on the offensive end.
“I felt like we were in a pretty good place,” Boren said, “but I think somewhere in there, we shot a bad shot, then we tried to dribble the ball between four guys. Instead of just staying patient and doing what we do, we got impatient.”
The fourth quarter was all Lampasas, as the Panthers were outscored 15-4 en route to a 52-39 Badger victory. According to Coach Boren, the game got away from them simply because the Badgers wanted it more.
“There were some missed shots that they got,” Boren said. “Why did they get them? Because they wanted it more than we did. You can say whatever you want to, but that’s just what that is. When a ball goes up and the other team rebounds it offensively, it’s just them wanting the ball more than you. That’s it.”
In addition to Lord’s 12 points, Ethan Hershberger added 8, while Josh Sudekum and Clayton Kuhlmann added 7 each.
Last Friday, Feb. 3, the Panthers had no trouble whatsoever against the Llano Yellowjackets.
Liberty Hill was up by 25 after just one quarter, allowing only one point from the Yellowjackets and taking a 26-1 lead. At halftime, their lead had climbed to 34 as the Panthers held a 49-15 lead.
Liberty Hill won by a final score of 88-46 behind 22 points from Sudekum and 18 from Hershberger.
LHHS is now 17-13 on the season and 7-3 in district play. The Panthers will play Leander Glenn at home this Friday, Feb. 10, at 6:30 p.m., followed by their final district game against Burnet at 6:30 p.m. at Burnet High School.