Lady Panthers get past Boerne to advance to Region IV finals

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By TAYLOR GRAFFT

KINGSVILLE — Survive and advance. At this point in the playoffs that’s all that matters to the Liberty Hill Lady Panther basketball team.

A win doesn’t always have to be pretty (and at times on Friday it wasn’t), but the Lady Panthers aren’t concerned with winning margins or individual point totals.

All they want is a chance to go to the state tournament in San Antonio.

On Friday night Liberty Hill took a giant leap towards that chance by beating Boerne 56-42.

Guards Ashlee Walker (18 points) and Shelby Whitten (12 points) led the Lady Panthers in scoring, but that doesn’t tell the entire story of how Matt Kirschner’s team maintained composure down the stretch and did what they had to, to close out the game with a W.

The Lady Panthers drew fouls at the right times, kept possession by making good passes around the perimeter, and worked hard to break the Greyhounds full-court press.

While it might have seemed like everything was falling apart in the second half for Liberty Hill, the girls never let their opponents get close enough to swing momentum completely in their favor.

“We started turning the ball over (in the second half) and that’s something you can’t do in these big games,” Kirschner said. “But my kids executed excellent. I know we made mistakes, but we got another win. We made the shots when we needed them. It would have been nice to make a few more, but even when they cut it to nine points midway through the fourth, it didn’t feel like Boerne had enough firepower to overcome us because of what we do as a team.”

Boerne’s main scorer was junior guard Mica Schneider who showed a nice stroke on her jump shot and range from three, but the Greyhounds struggled to get any other player to constantly get involved in their offense.

“We didn’t want to just sit back and let them run through us,” Walker said. “I think (Schneider) came out in the second half and was scoring and ready to go, but one player can’t beat a whole team.”

Tonight it wasn’t a typical Lady Panther win by 30 or 40 points, and the girls were outrebounded by a double-digit margin, but once again they have proved that grit, desire, and effort can be enough to survive and advance.

Senior Baylie Bevers got off to a quick start in the first quarter by scoring all six of the Lady Panthers’ points in the first three minutes of play.

Whitten then drained two three-pointers in a thirty-second span to give her team a six-point lead with 2:08 left.

In the second quarter it was Walker’s turn to take over, but it wasn’t only by individual effort. Great assists by Kandyn Faurie and Meghan Huppee gave Walker a simple layup in the paint.

At halftime Liberty Hill held a comfortable 33-16 lead, with Walker and Whitten both finishing with eight points at the break.

The Lady Panthers ran into trouble to start the second half when the Greyhounds brought out a full-court press and when they brought double teams in their half-court defense.

Boerne finally was able to cut the margin to single digits with 2:09 left in the fourth quarter, but Faurie came through clutch when she drove the lane and used an up-and-under move to score.

Junior Allee Nix sealed the victory when the Lady Panthers broke the Greyhounds’ press perfectly and getting Nix an easily layup before their opponents could get set up on defense.

Now the only thing standing in the Lady Panthers’ way is an athletic Brazosport team in the Region IV finals on Saturday afternoon.

“One more step then were at the state tournament,” Walker said. “This is what we’ve been dreaming about since we were kids and it’s now becoming real.”

Whitten was familiar with this stage of the playoffs from her freshman year, but back then it wasn’t the same according to the point guard. Now it means a lot more and winning means everything.

“It’s way different now that I’m actually playing,” Whitten said. “The excitement is so much greater now that I’m playing with these girls I’ve grown up with and played with forever. I just want it so bad. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted something so bad. I just know we want to win tomorrow and go to state. When I was a freshman I was a nervous at this stage, but now I have less nerves and am able to be a leader for the younger girls.

If Liberty Hill sticks to the game plan that’s gotten them thus far in the playoffs, they should book their ticket to San Antonio and etch their names as one of the greatest Liberty Hill teams in program history.

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