Defense suffocates Giddings, Lady Panthers advance to second round

2017-02-14 - LH Girls BB vs Giddings-06754-22-web

Bethany McLeod (#10) drives past a Giddings defender in the Lady Panthers’ playoff win Tuesday. Liberty Hill will play Mexia in the second round on Friday at Cameron Yoe High School, 303 E. 12th Street, Cameron, 76520. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By Paul Livengood

GEORGETOWN — The Liberty Hill Lady Panthers won their fourth straight bi-district title Tuesday night—their last bi-district loss coming by the hands of Mineral Wells in 2012-13.

The Lady Panthers defeated the Giddings Lady Buffaloes 71-17 at a neutral site game played in the Corbin J. Robertson Center at Southwestern University. The team advances to the Area Championship game, where the girls will tip-off against Mexia at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, at Cameron Yoe High School.

Liberty Hill dominated defensively, shutting out the Lady Buffaloes entirely in the first quarter, outscoring them 23-0. In fact, the team did not allow a single basket made from the floor in the whole first half. Giddings scored five points in the first half—all from the free-throw line.

“I don’t think that’s ever happened the whole season,” Head Coach Chris Lange said. “We have had a couple where we allowed one or two buckets in a half, but if we don’t foul them, they don’t score. We keep reaching and make bad decisions on defense. That’s one of the bad things about getting up. You get up, and every little thing you do gets called, and that’s okay. I don’t have a problem with it, but we have to be smarter than that. We have to keep our hands out, move our feet better, and we weren’t doing that.”

At halftime, Liberty Hill led Giddings 40-5. Kandyn Faurie, junior forward, was the main contributor to the Panthers’ lead, scoring a team-high 12 of the team’s 40 first-half points. Faurie finished the game with 16 points, six steals and four assists.

In the second half, Giddings finally scored its first basket from the field—a wide open three-pointer by Janay Wilson from the left wing. The bucket was scored one minute and 25 seconds into the third quarter, but the Lady Buffaloes trailed the Lady Panthers 42-8 and it was already too late.

Giddings would score a total of four baskets from the field in the game, including two three-pointers and two baskets inside the paint. Seven of the 10 points Giddings scored came from the free-throw line.

Junior center Sedona Prince’s length and inside presence was a huge reason for the Panthers’ defensive dominance. Prince protected the rim valiantly against the Lady Buffaloes, rejecting them time and time again with eight blocks on the night.

Prince leads the Panthers with 5.5 blocks per game this season.

13 first-half steals in Liberty Hill’s full-court press also helped keep Giddings from crossing half court for a significant portion of the 40-5 run.

Liberty Hill finished the game with a total of 17 steals—which is just above the team’s 16.4 average—but also elected to not keep up the defensive pressure as high in the second half.

Despite Liberty Hill’s margin of victory, there were some aspects of the game that Lange was not pleased with and would like to improve in upcoming games.

“We could have been better,” Lange said. “It’s always good to win. From now on, you have to win them all. We shot poorly from the free throw line. We shot like 55, 57 percent from the free throw line—something like that. We didn’t hit a three. I don’t know if the two lines on the court maybe threw them off. I complained with them at halftime that there was a lack of execution on offense. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you can’t come out and just go through the motions.”

Missing free throws will be a huge issue if the problem persists in future rounds. Liberty Hill shot 11-for-17 (65 percent) from the free-throw line against Giddings.

While Liberty Hill has not played Mexia yet this season, China Spring is a regular opponent for the Lady Panthers, and the Cougars have proven to be tough competition. In November, Liberty Hill escaped a late fourth-quarter surge from the Cougars, narrowly holding on 52-44.