Panthers win bi-district title, face Brazosport rematch

Slater Foust looks for an open teammate after pulling in a rebound during Liberty Hill’s bidistrict win over La Vernia Monday night. (Alex Rubio Photo)

Slater Foust looks for an open teammate after pulling in a rebound during Liberty Hill’s bidistrict win over La Vernia Monday night. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By Lauren Jette

FREDERICKSBURG — It wasn’t an easy game for the Panthers, but Liberty Hill fought back to win the bi-district round of playoffs 37-31 over La Vernia at Fredericksburg High School Monday night.

The Panthers will face a familiar opponent in the area round as Liberty Hill will play Brazosport at Schulenburg High School at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

The Exporters ended the Panthers’ undefeated season in the bi-district round of playoffs last season.

“Really, our guys are playing a lot on just their instincts,” said head coach Barry Boren after the game Monday.

“They have a pretty good grasp on how to play, but we’re not doing anything special, we’re just playing good, basic basketball as evidenced by the score 37-31. We’ll take it.”

The Panthers got down early in the game as La Vernia put up three unanswered baskets to start the first quarter. Liberty Hill got on the board thanks to a three from Carson Lowe with four and a half minutes left. An assist from Trey Jenkins to Aedan Welch, who was playing in his first game since returning from a broken wrist injury, cut the Bears lead to 5-9.

Bryce Truslow hit a 3 with 2:23 left to cut the lead to three points. He hit another three with 1:16 on the clock, but La Vernia put in a basket as time expired to hold the 15-11 lead.

In the second quarter, Jenkins cut the lead to a basket and then tied the game up at 15 with another basket at the 5:57 mark.

Another Jenkins basket off the Carson Lowe assist gave the Panthers a lead, but not for long as the Bears put up a basket to tie the game again at 17 points.

Both teams went cold on offense for the rest of the quarter until La Vernia hit a three with 1:45 left to take the 20-17 lead at the break.

In the third quarter, Liberty Hill was able to chip away at the Bears’ lead with a basket from Brady Lochte and two free throws from Welch.

A three from Conner Lowe with 1:09 on the clock tied the game again, while another three with 30 seconds left gave the Panthers a lead they would hold for the rest of the game.

Welch, who was injured before the Burnet game on Jan. 22, was a surprise addition to the lineup Monday.

“We didn’t know that Aedan was going to be cleared to play,” Boren said.

“I got a text (Monday morning) that said he had been cleared at the doctor. We hadn’t had a chance to practice with him in the lineup.”

The lack of practice with his team before the game didn’t seem to be too much of a hindrance for Welch, who still put up 6 points, a handful of rebounds and a couple of blocks in limited time on the court.

“Tonight anyway, we had two guys who were probably 60 percent of themselves, but that was just enough,” Boren said.

“That’s the reason that we’re playing Conner (Lowe). He has the ability to hit deep shots. He hit two. The thing that Aedan gave us was some physicality inside.”

Liberty Hill will face a tough rematch against Brazosport, who defeated Bay City 99-64 Tuesday night.

The Exporters are 26-7 on the season after going 8-2 in District 28.

The winner of Friday’s game will face the winner of a matchup between Wharton and Burnet.