By Chuck Licata
For the third time in the schoolâ€™s documented history, the Liberty Hill Lady Panthersâ€™ varsity basketball team is headed to the UIL Class 3A state tournament.
The Lady Panthers swept the Region IV tournament in Corpus Christi this past weekend (Feb. 24-25); Matt Kirschnerâ€™s crew beat Corpus Christi West Oso 61-13 on Friday night (Feb. 24) before beat fellow District 25-3A foe Burnet, 58-36, on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 25) to punch their ticket to Austinâ€™s state tourney.
â€ś(We feel) a little bit of relief,â€ť Kirschner said Sunday night. â€śThat was our goal at the beginning was to get (to the state tournament). To win a state championship you have to get (to the state tournament).
â€śIt was ironic we played Burnet â€“ our biggest rival and fellow (district) mate â€“ for the right to get to state. We now have a little bit of preparation time as we donâ€™t play until Thursday. Plus, unlike the other teams at state, we donâ€™t have to travel far; we can keep our routine and sleep in our own beds. That gives us a big advantage.â€ť
Ironically, the Lady Panthers will open up with Abilene Wylieâ€™s Lady Bulldogs â€“Wylie (34-5 this season) beat LHHS two years ago in the then-Region I tournament final by a 64-49 score, thus denying the 2009-10 Lady Panthers a berth at the state tournament. The Lady Panthers will meet the Lady Bulldogs in a scheduled 3:30 p.m. Central time contest; the game will be broadcast live on K-MAC Sports (www.kmacsports.com).
Wylie is the defending Class 3A state champion (they beat Lucas Lovejoy 66-58 last spring) and the Lady Bulldogs also made it to the 2010 state championship game, where they lost to Liberty-Elau, 70-68, in overtime.
â€śTheyâ€™re very experienced at state,â€ť Kirschner stated. â€śTheyâ€™ve played four games in the past two years, thatâ€™s the most you can play. Plus, theyâ€™re the defending state champs â€“ and they donâ€™t lose that title until somebody beats them.â€ť
And to do that, someone is going to have to find a way to stop Wylie start (and â€śstudâ€ť) Peyton Little, a senior whoâ€™s committed to the University of Texas.
Little has won the Regional Tournament MVP Award each of the last three years and has led the Lady Bulldogs to the state championship game each of the past two years. She â€śonlyâ€ť scored 41 points Saturday in leading Wylie to a 63-58 victory over Kennedale, putting Wylie in the state tourney for the third straight year.
Little also tallied eight rebounds and four assists in the win as Wylie beat Kennedale for the second straight year in the Region I final.
Donâ€™t think the Lady Panthers have forgotten about the Region I final game two years ago â€“ and donâ€™t think that doesnâ€™t â€śstick in their crawâ€ť as they look to avenge that loss and advance to Saturdayâ€™s 3A state championship game.
LHHS 58, Burnet 36
Region IV Championship
â€śWe knew weâ€™d have our hands full with Burnet,â€ť Kirschner remarked. â€śThey know us well and we know them. Iâ€™ve always said it, (Burnet coach) Mike Cavender is a great coach. They should be applauded for making it to the regional final.â€ť
And Cavenderâ€™s squad ran out and took an 11-5 lead after the first period. The Lady Panthers â€“ who only shot 33 percent (18 of 53) from the field on the game â€“ couldnâ€™t â€śhit a shot to save their lives,â€ť according to Kirschner.
However, the LHHS mentor said his conversation with his squad in the time out between the first and second quarters helped the team get back on track.
â€śWe got a little bit rattled at the start,â€ť Kirschner revealed. â€śBurnet opened the game with a 3-pointer and got things going. We talked about it between quarters; our girls realized they werenâ€™t being aggressive, and attacking, on offense.
â€śYou could see the confidence coming back when they took the court to start the second quarter.â€ť
The Lady Panthers hit a couple 3-pointers of their own in the second period, outscoring Burnet 17-7 in the period to take a 22-18 lead into the halftime break.
The Lady Panthers poured it on in the third, streaking to a 21-5 advantage to open up a 43-23 lead after three periods and putting the game away.
After the final buzzer (and 58-36 victory), the team celebrated its state tournament berth.
â€śPart of it is the shear excitement of making it,â€ť Kirschner said. â€śYou always want to take a team to the top; you just never know if youâ€™re ever going to have that opportunity.
â€śOur first year (2009-10), we got close. Last year we took a hard loss (a 43-38 loss to Salado in the Region IV quarterfinals). This year, finally, weâ€™re here.â€ť
Senior Lorrie Potts hit four 3-pointers for the Lady Panthers and led them with 14 points. Senior Jessica Green poured in 12 points to go with six assists, five rebounds and two steals.
Next up was senior Kourtney Bevers with 11 points, thanks in part to 3-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc. She added nine rebounds, one steal and one assist.
LHHS first-year senior Jordan Redmond had a â€śmonster stats game:â€ť eight points, six rebounds, five blocked shots, four steals and one assist.
Other LHHS contributors included senior Taylor Russell (10 rebonds, seven points, two steals and two assists); junior Maddie Metzger (five points and two rebounds); senior Lauren Jackson (one point); senior Chandler Christianson (one steal); junior Cera Dixon (one rebound); and, seniors Macy Floyd and Stephanie Metzger.
LHHS 61, CC West Oso 13
Region IV Semifinal
The Lady Panthers faced a tough West Oso squad in front of West Osoâ€™s home crowd.
Obviously there was no home court advantage here.
The Lady Panthers ran out to a 17-6 lead after the first period then shut out West Oso by a 19-0 count in the second period. Kirschnerâ€™s crew had an insurmountable 36-6 lead at the half and cruised from there.
Jessica Green (17 points along with five rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Kourtney Bevers (16 points, eight rebounds, six steals and two assists) led a well-balanced attack.
Other LHHS contributors included Lorrie Potts (five points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal and one blocked shot); junior Maddie Metzger (four points, three rebounds, two steals and one block); senior Macy Floyd (four points, one steal, one rebound and one assist); senior Stephanie Metzger (three points and two rebounds); junior Brittany Beach (two points); freshman Shelby Whitten (one point, one rebound, one steal and one assist); senior Cera Dixon (one steal); senior Lauren Jackson (one assist and one steal); and, senior Chandler Christianson, junior Shelby Hart and sophomore Blair Lord.