Lady Panthers run past Crystal City in semi-final

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By Lance Catchings

KINGSVILLE- The 2019 Liberty Hill girls’ basketball team is special. Not only because of what they have accomplished this season, but because of how they did it. Last season Liberty Hill went 33-4 and was upset at the regional tournament in the semi-finals. That team graduated more than eight seniors, four of which went off to play collegiate basketball.

The 2019 Lady Panthers are 22-17 on the season but have pushed themselves beyond what was expected. Many teams thought this was the year Liberty Hill would be down, but the Lady Panthers are proving with togetherness and a love for one another anything can be accomplished. Liberty Hill defeated Crystal City Friday night 55-36 in the class 4A regional semi-final playoff to advance to the regional final.

“We came in with confidence for sure,” said head coach Chris Lange.

“We knew we could go in and win this game if we played well. We shot the ball okay and we had a few too many turnovers in the first half but other than that the kids were positive. They stepped on the court, handled the situation and did what they had to do.”

Although there have been doubters the Lady Panthers have silenced opposing coaches and fans at every gym, they have played at during their playoff run. Confidence has grown amongst the young team that earlier this season had a stretch of seven straight losses. None of that mattered Friday when they ended Crystal City’s season. Liberty Hill led 13-10 after the first quarter and 27-20 at halftime. In the third quarter the Lady Panthers hit another gear outscoring Crystal City 18-9 in the quarter and building a 45-29 lead.

“In the third quarter we held them to nine points, and they hit five free throws and two buckets,” he said.
“We locked down on defense and took away what they were doing well. We did not allow them to run up and down the court like they wanted to. We hit three pointers in the third quarter so overall it was a good quarter for us.

Lange said this team truly has a team first mentality. Without a blue-chip player, the girls have had to rely on each other to pick up the slack. It is a strategy that worked throughout district play and thus far in the playoffs. It seems a different girl seems to rise to the occasion every game to give the team what it needs.

“We don’t have one kid that is going to go out every night and score 15 points,” he said.

“For us it is not just one person scoring. You just never know who is going to step up for us and that has been the story all year. It makes me super proud of the girls that they have learned how to work together. From this point on whatever happens, I am proud of them. We go out tomorrow expecting to win but I am just so proud of them and what they have accomplished this year so far.”

Liberty Hill will face the second-place team from their own district in the regional final and it is a familiar foe. The Lady Panthers will take on Burnet, who they have previously beat twice this season. In the first game Liberty hill won 57-51 and in the second district round Liberty Hill won 45-31. Both games were highly competitive coming down to the closing quarter and Lange expects more of the same.

“Burnet feels like they should have won both of our games earlier this season,” he said.

“To prepare you have to stay true to yourself. We must minimize turnovers and knock down the open shots you get. We also must withstand the emotion. Burnet plays with a ton of emotion. They will hoop and holler all the way through, and they will have a ton of fans there. You must handle that along with the little things that come your way. We have done it before, and we just must play hard and smart. You do the best you can, and you hope it comes out your way.”

Tipoff for the game is at 7:30 p.m. at the Steinke Center located on the campus of Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Should Liberty Hill win they will gain a berth to the 2019 state basketball tournament held in San Antonio.

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