Runnin’ Panthers find revenge with win over Burnet, finish 3rd in district

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Senior center Zach Lord (#32) wins the opening jump ball for the Panthers. Lord finished with a team-high 18 points in Liberty Hill’s win over Leander Glenn. (Alex Rubio Photo)

Senior center Zach Lord (#32) wins the opening jump ball for the Panthers. Lord finished with a team-high 18 points in Liberty Hill’s win over Leander Glenn. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By KEITH SPARKS

Liberty Hill’s varsity basketball team got revenge in its purest form on Tuesday, beating Burnet in their final regular season game after losing to the Bulldogs by just three points in the first matchup with their rival earlier this season.

In their first game against the Bulldogs, Liberty Hill Head Coach Barry Boren opted to switch from the full-court zone press that he often runs in favor of a half-court man-to-man defense.

On Tuesday night, however, the Panthers went back to doing what they do best: full-court pressure. Boren implied a bit of regret for having switched out of their full-court zone against Burnet and Lampasas the first time the Panthers faced those teams.

“I think they felt the pressure,” Boren said. “We did what we’ve been doing, and again, in my mind, really and truly we should have beat Lampasas like that and we should be tied for three-way district champs.”

Liberty Hill, down by five at the end of the first quarter, was able to come back and take a two-point lead in the second, going into halftime up on the Bulldogs 34-32.

“We kind of got a little spark going,” Boren said. “We get like three straight crazy plays, like two and-ones. Then with 1.2 seconds in the first quarter, we miss a free throw and Josh (Sudekum) gets a put back at the buzzer. In the second quarter, we just kind of used that momentum and were actually up two at halftime.”

The Panthers were able to take advantage of their size inside in the second half, getting guys like Zach Lord, Josh Sudekum, and Clayton Kuhlmann easy looks in the paint. Kuhlmann and Sudekum finished with 13 points each, while Lord added 12.

“We had said they had nobody that could guard our bigs,” Boren said. “Their three best players all had four fouls. Somewhere in the fourth quarter they tried to go zone, and it was just our height advantage. Josh (Sudekum) hit some big shots in the fourth quarter, and Clayton (Kuhlmann) hit some big shots.”

Having played the Bulldogs dozens of times during his tenure as Head Coach at Liberty Hill, Boren knows as well as anybody outside of Burnet what the Bulldogs are capable of. In the fourth quarter, with the game on the line Tuesday night, he used that to his advantage.

“I showed the guys there’s four different offenses they might run,” Boren said. “So when they tried to run those, our guys were sitting and waiting for them. They knew where the spots were that they were going to.”

The Panthers beat the Bulldogs by a final score of 55-51, dethroning Burnet from first place in the district. Lampasas finished first in District 19-AAAA, Burnet finished second, and the Panthers finished third.

Last Friday, Feb. 10, the Panthers took on Leander Glenn, handling the Grizzlies with ease.

The Panthers beat Leander Glenn by a final score of 73-40 behind a balanced effort, including 18 points from Lord, 9 each from Carson Perkins and Ethan Hershberger, and 8 each from Kuhlmann and Bryce Truslow.

Liberty Hill finished the regular season with a 19-13 overall record and a 9-4 record in district play.

The Panthers will play Smithville in the first round of the playoffs next Tuesday, Feb. 21, at a time and location that have yet to be determined.

Sports@LHIndependent.com

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