Runnin’ Panthers bounce Burnet to control district
By Joseph Garcia
BURNET — Liberty Hill and Burnet always have a reason to get up for a game with each other. But in a matchup of two teams with undefeated records (3-0) control of District 25-3A was on the line Tuesday night at the Dog House.
Burnet came out full of energy and played disciplined defense, badgering the Runnin’ Panthers’ offense for most of the game. However, one player seemingly not bothered by the Burnet defense was junior points guard Shane LaCaille.
And to the chants of “kill, kill Liberty Hill,” LaCaille put the team on his shoulders Tuesday night, scoring 11 of Liberty Hill’s 19 points in the second half for a total of 27 to lead all scorers. He was aggressive throughout the game, leading Liberty Hill to an important 47-34 road-victory.
The win put Liberty Hill (4-0, 24-3) in the driver’s seat of District 25-3A with Burnet (3-1, 13-3) one game behind the Panthers.
Following the game, Liberty Hill Coach Barry Boren praised his point guard’s much needed performance.
“It’s good to get out of here with a win,” said Boren. “Especially on a night when Stephen Graves, who averages 16.5 points, scores none and Blake Danielak scores less than 10…it’s nice to have that third guy. He played really good.”
LaCaille sparked Liberty Hill’s offense in the first quarter opening the game with a jumper off the dribble. Down early 4-2, the junior then tied the game after sinking two free throws. He and fellow junior Blake Danielak scored six in the opening quarter. Along with a Robert Koepl free throw, Liberty Hill led 13-10 after one.
A big block by Danielak – one of three in the second quarter – seemed to get the entire team going on both offense and defense.
LaCaille scored 16 first-half points including 10 in the second quarter after nailing two three pointers and scoring on two layups.
Liberty Hill went into halftime with a 28-15 lead over its rival and would only let Burnet get within eight points for the rest of the game.
The Bulldogs were able to limit their turnovers by breaking the Liberty Hill press for most of the evening, disallowing the Panthers’ offense to get in rhythm.
“They did a really good job of breaking our press so the tempo didn’t favor us and so then you begin to miss a shot or two and start to think about it, that’s what happens,” explained Boren. “Burnet did a really good job of playing the game they wanted to and we had to play that game too.”
Coach Boren said it was not until the fourth quarter when he decided to spread the floor to take some time off the clock.
“It was time to take over the game (with a 10-point lead),” he said. “Previously we kept coming down and missing, giving them a chance to chip away at us. While we didn’t really play as well as we would of liked to on offense, we played pretty well on defense so we’ll take it.”
LaCaille, team leader in scoring and assists, scored 11 of Liberty Hill’s 19 points in the second half. Along with solid defensive play the Panthers, who have won four district games by an average of 32.8 points, escaped Burnet with a 13-point (47-34) win.
The next opponent on Liberty Hill’s schedule is Lampasas at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, at the Panthers Den.