Lady Panther basketball off to strong start after Belton win
By Paul Livengood
In 2015, the Liberty Hill girls basketball team qualified for the UIL State semifinal game, where the the ladies lost to Argyle 43-32.
The Panthers graduated 11 seniors from last year’s team and have five returners on this year’s squad. The 2016 Lady Panthers are mainly comprised of juniors, which makes up eight of the 12 spots on the team.
Coach Chris Lange enters his second season with the Panthers, looking to build on his playoff run in 2015.
Lange spent four years at Temple High School, then taught at Liberty Hill Junior High before making the move to the high school last school year.
“Last year was an unknown, new coach, a lot of new key components last year, so that was the unknown last year,” Lange said. “We weren’t sure about how far we could go and about mid-season, we felt real comfortable about our team. Going into this season, I think the expectations are still right there. The goal is to get back to state. The goal is to get that one more game further than we did last year.”
Lange continued to mention he believes the talent is there and his team just has to grow throughout the season, play ball, avoid injuries, and then everything else will take care of itself.
Among the strong junior class are returning starters Sedona Prince and Kandyn Faurie. At 6-foot-7 inches tall, Prince gives the Panthers an obvious size advantage in the post.
Faurie, who is a 5’9” guard, will be another key offensive weapon for the Panthers.
Defensively, the Panthers will be led by point guard Bethany McLeod, who usually plays the lead position in Liberty Hill’s full court press game and zone defense schemes.
There is no secret that early on in the year and throughout the season, the Panthers’ bread and butter will be funneling the ball through Prince in the post to take advantage of her size, score some points in the paint and/or open up some three-point opportunities by collapsing the opponent’s defense on Prince.
Lange did mention he would throw in more concepts as the season progressed, but will save those for district play as well as the playoffs.
Unlike last season, where Liberty Hill didn’t play a single scrimmage before the season started, this year Lange set up a few scrimmages against Cedar Park, Temple, and East View to get his team into the swing of things. Lange says their preseason has gone well and the Lady Panthers have received solid looks from contrasting styles of play in Cedar Park, Temple, and East View.
The Panthers opened a tough non-district schedule against Belton, who Lange has been told by coaches in the area might be state-bound in the 6A division of UIL.
Lange wanted to give his girls a tough opening schedule to battle test the Lady Panthers and be able to assess where the team is and how good they could potentially be come district and playoff time.
This Lady Panthers team will focus on its depth as a key contributor to their success.
The first example of this happened Tuesday night against Belton.
Liberty Hill walked away from the season opener with a 43-24 victory despite turning over the ball a ton.
Lange used words like “sloppy”, and “ugly basketball” to describe the win. The Panthers still came away with a win, however, due to the defensive pressure created with their full court trap to create easy scoring opportunities. Combine the defensive presence with the 20 combined points scored by Prince and Faurie, scoring 10 apiece, and the Panthers were able to get an early lead that they would hold onto for the rest of the game.
Two positives from the season opener were: first, everyone played. Lange played his entire roster and did so by substituting the entire lineup four to all five players at a time and kept fresh legs on the floor. This played well into keeping up the defensive pressure on the Lady Tigers. The energy and effort were always up, but did suffer on crashing the boards when Prince left the floor, however.
“Like I was telling them, it wasn’t being small, the problem was not blocking out,” Lange said. “We had position about four or five times, and we just never blocked out. So someone of average height or a little bit taller than you is going to reach over and rebound the ball. We have to do a better job blocking out.”
With no game this Friday, the Panthers have the rest of the week to practice on rebounding technique, ball security, and patience executing their offense. Liberty Hill will take to the court again Tuesday, Nov. 15, on the road against Lorena.