LAMPASAS — It was an unfamiliar position.
After failing to produce a victory against Liberty Hill since 1999, Lampasas entered Tuesday’s District 27-4A contest as a favorite.
Ranked No. 11 in the state after winning 11 consecutive games, the Lady Badgers came into the game with momentum, expectations of success and a desire for revenge after losing to the Lady Panthers by 71 points at home last year.
But Lampasas could not end Liberty Hill’s decades of dominance.
The Lady Badgers rallied from an early double-digit deficit to take a 44-41 advantage into the fourth quarter only to see it evaporate as the Lady Panthers used a 16-4 outburst to propel them to a 64-56 victory.
Following the defeat, Lampasas head coach Mark Myers admitted his team was simply unaccustomed to the intense environment.
“The girls were very nervous all day long,” he said. “There were a lot of expectations from the community, I think that was one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever coached in front of, and we just didn’t respond real well to the pressure of the situation.
“But we need to be in these situations to learn how to deal with it. So, this will help us down the line.”
The Lady Badgers’ collective anxiety was apparent from the beginning.
Liberty Hill (9-15, 2-0) scored the first seven points of the game and led 11-1 before Lampasas senior Diane Hurst produced the Lady Badgers’ first field goal with almost four minutes elapsed off the clock.
Lampasas trailed 16-10 going into the second quarter but pulled within three points, 27-24, as Paige Linney found Hurst for a layup.
The Lady Panthers, however, scored six unanswered points to take a 33-24 advantage into halftime.
The Lady Badgers (22-4, 1-1) discovered their rhythm in the third quarter, though, taking their first lead at 35-34 thanks to Addison McDonald’s jumper with 4 minutes, 40 seconds remaining in the period.
Lampasas’ cushion inflated to 43-39, and the Lady Badgers entered the fourth quarter ahead 44-41.
“I really felt good at that point,” Myers said, “but we just couldn’t execute in the fourth quarter.”
Liberty Hill scored 16 of the first 20 points in the fourth period, but Lampasas trimmed the deficit 57-53 before the Lady Panthers finished with a surge.
Hurst led the Lady Badgers with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Kamri Corbin scored a dozen points on 2-of-3 shooting from behind the 3-point arc. Additionally, point guard Abby Martin (four assists) and Jelecia Magee-Hodges scored eight points apiece.
While the loss was disappointing, positives emerged fro Lampasas.
Since 2011, when the teams began sharing a district, Liberty Hill entered with an unblemished 16-0 record, outscoring the Lady Badgers by a combined 600 points and winning by an average of 40.9 points in eight games at Lampasas. Furthermore, the Lady Panthers have won each of the previous four encounters by at least 62 points, making Tuesday’s result the only single-digit outcome during the eight-year span.
Although a victory would be more enjoyable, Myers feels his players can only benefit from the loss.
“Liberty Hill had to work to beat us tonight,” he said. “They didn’t have to do that last year, and they didn’t have to do that in years past.
“One of our goals this year was to close the gap between us and Liberty Hill, and we’ve already done that. Now, we just have to beat them, and I feel we can do it, because now, my girls have something to relate to.”
LIBERTY HILL 64, LAMPASAS 56
Liberty Hill (64)
Robinson 19, Holliday 9, Laird 9, Berzin 8, Sargent 6, Whitten 5, Jackson 5, Vickers 2, Hubbard 1.
No. 11 Lampasas (56)
Hurst 18, Corbin 12, Martin 8, Magee-Hodges 8, Allen 3, Lowery 2, McDonald 2, Ball 2, Yancy 1.
Liberty Hill 16 17 8 23—64
Lampasas 10 14 20 12—56
3-Point Goals—Liberty Hill 9 (Holliday 2, Sargent 2, Robinson 2, Berzin 2, Jackson), Lampasas 5 (Corbin 2, Martin, Allen, Hurst). Free Throws—Liberty Hill 19-26, Lampasas 17-28. Fouled Out—Hubbard, Martin. Total Fouls—Liberty Hill 18, Lampasas 21. Technicals—None.
Records—Liberty Hill 9-15, 2-0 27-4A, Lampasas 22-4, 1-1.
TUESDAY'S 27-4A SCORES
- Burnet 53, Taylor 23
- Liberty Hill 64, No. 11 Lampasas 56
- Salado 77, Eastside Memorial 15