Final Score by Chuck Licata
Those of us in Liberty Hill are hoping the third time is the charm this coming week.
The chase for the Class 3A state girls’ championship title is down to four teams (aka, The Final Four) – and the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers are one of those four.
All season long, the team’s nine seniors – Kourtney Bevers, Jessica Green, Taylor Russell, Lorrie Potts, Jordan Redmond, Stephanie Metzger, Macy Floyd, Lauren Jackson and Chandler Christianson – have “shouldered” the expectations of making the 3A state tournament in this, their last high school “go-around.”
The wheels of the bus “go round and round” down to the Erwin Center in downtown Austin.
That is where the Lady Panthers (35-4 overall) will take on a familiar foe, Abilene Wylie (34-5), Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in one side of the 3A state semifinals. Both teams met two years ago in the then-Region I tournament final. Wylie senior Peyton Little – the star 6-foot-0 Wylie guard who is headed back to the Erwin Center to play for the Longhorns upon graduation – helped bury the Lady Panthers, 64-49, two years ago as a sophomore in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
Little averaged 28 points in district play and has “tore the twine” for 28.5 points per game in the playoffs. She’s also totalling four rebounds, three steals and three assists per playoff contest.
Her teammates of note include sophomore forward Punkin Mack (12 points and five rebounds per game during the playoffs); junior post Kylie Jenkins (seven points and six boards per playoff game); and, sophomore guard Bailey Turner (six points per playoff contest).
Now, it’s Liberty Hill’s turn to get a little revenge on Little and her mates, who come into Thursday’s semi not only the defending state champs but as participants in their third consecutive state tournament (they lost to Liberty-Elau, 70-68, in overtime in the 2010 state final).
Meantime, Liberty Hill’s girls are headed to the state tournament for the third time in documented history. Both previous trips, the Lady Panthers lost in the state semifinals. The 1995-96 team lost the state semifinal game to eventual state champ Grosbeck, 71-64; Groesbeck beat Slaton, 63-61, for the state title. The 2003-04 LHHS squad, meantime, lost to Winnsboro, 66-41; Winnsboro went on to lose to Canyon in the state final by a 63-33 count.
Liberty Hill’s Runnin’ Panthers, meantime, play Hondo Tuesday night at San Marcos High School for the chance to play in the Region IV tournament (the exact tourney the girls won) this weekend in Corpus Christi.
More importantly, Barry Boren’s crew (32-3 overall) got the “one and done” tag off the team – the Panthers had lost their first playoff game each of the last two years despite winning their respective district championships.
Last year’s Panthers had 10 seniors with a common goal; they fell a bit short of what they wanted to accomplish. Maybe their desire “rubbed off” on this year’s team – this squad seems to have the determination and confidence to make the trip down to Corpus, then the trip back to the Erwin Center in Austin.