By KEITH SPARKS
Liberty Hill opened district play with a win over the Taylor Ducks on Tuesday, Jan. 2, after finishing the Whataburger Tournament over the weekend with a 2-2 record with wins over Decatur and Nazareth and losses to Argyle and Abilene Wylie.
The Panthers beat the Ducks by final score of 80-71 in Taylor to begin district play with a 1-0 record. Liberty Hill was down by one at the end of the first quarter, but found their stroke in the second and took a big lead behind a 23-point quarter while holding the ducks to only 11. Liberty Hill’s Parker McCurdy hit two threes in the second quarter, scoring a team-high 8 points in the quarter after scoring none in the first. At halftime, the Panthers led 42-31.
The Panthers continued to put up points in the third quarter, scoring 24 as a team behind 7 from sophomore point guard Carson Perkins. Liberty Hill let up a bit in the fourth, losing the quarter 19-14, but they held a big enough lead to hold the Ducks off for their first district win.
Senior center Neil Stephens led the team in scoring with 21, followed by Perkins with 19 and McCurdy with 13.
Although a 2-2 tournament record in Fort Worth over the weekend may not seem like anything to brag about, Boren said their record doesn’t do their performance justice, considering the talent level of the teams they played.
“All four teams were state-ranked,” Boren said. “I think Wylie was number four in the state. They beat us by 15, but honestly, they’ve been beating 6A teams by 30. We got beat by 15, but it wasn’t bad. They’re very good. We played Decatur, which is number 24, and we beat them. Then we played Nazareth, which is number two in Class A, and we beat them. Then we played Argyle, which is number eight in 4A, and we led them until about midway through the fourth quarter.”
In their first game of the tournament, Liberty Hill faced Abilene Wylie in a game that they lost by a final score of 67-52. The Panthers were led by senior Riley LaDuque, who finished with 13 points, followed by Stephens with 12.
Next, the Panthers played Decatur, whom they beat 62-53 behind 20 points from Stephens and 16 each from McCurdy and Perkins.
Following their win over Decatur, Liberty Hill came out with another victory over Nazareth by a final score of 56-45. McCurdy led the way offensively with 23 points, 11 of which he scored in the fourth quarter. Perkins finished with 16 and Stephens added 12.
The Panthers played Argyle in their final game of the tournament, losing a hard-fought contest by a final score of 45-38. Stephens led the way with 13 as the only Panther to finish in double figures.
Their 2-2 record against quality opponents encouraged Boren heading into district play, admitting that his team outplayed his expectations at the Whataburger Tournament.
Following their win over Taylor on Tuesday, Liberty Hill now holds a 13-10 overall record. They’ll look to remain undefeated in district play against Salado at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 5, at home.