The cards were stacked against Liberty Hill (34-6) in Friday's UIL 4A state semifinal against Decatur (37-4), but the Panthers defied those odds in a come-from-behind 53-51 victory at San Antonio's Alamodome.
Liberty Hill coach Barry Boren, who waited 40 coaching seasons before finally reaching this weekend's UIL State tournament, understood the importance of this moment.
"I feel very fortunate because there's a lot of really good coaches that have not gotten to this point," Boren said after the game. "The focus [going into the season] was on us doing something like this."
Liberty Hill came in as the 22nd ranked team in TABC's 4A rankings, while Decatur was placed as the state's fifth best team, but that wasn't the only disadvantage. During the game, a 14-0 Decatur run flipped an early Liberty Hill 13-9 advantage to an Eagles' 23-13 lead. A similar run happened at the start of the third quarter, when Decatur scored seven consecutive points to take a 36-20 advantage.
If Liberty Hill was going to climb back into the game, it was going to have to go on a run of its own. The Panthers did that in the final period. They used an 11-2 run to cut their deficit to 48-46, and followed a Grayson Harris three with a game-ending 7-0 run.
Liberty Hill had attacked defenders all game, as evident by its 30 to 13 attempt advantage and 21 and seven make edge, and followed that path down the stretch. Jareck Naylor and Kaleb Bannon combined to make four consecutive free throws to cut the deficit to 51-50 with 1:29 left.
Wilson Hicks was intentionally fouled on Decatur's final possession, but the miss on his lone attempt gave Liberty Hill the ball for the final possession of the game. VYPE Player of the Game Parker McCurdy, who finished with nine points in the game, made a game-winning three to give Liberty Hill a two-point win at the buzzer.
"I didn't know I was going to be the one to get the ball," said McCurdy. "I let it fly and it went in. We all celebrated."
Liberty Hill also got double-digit scoring from Kaleb Bannon's 12 points, Walker Baty's 11 and Carson Perkins' 10.
In the loss, Decatur was led by Gage Reiger's 15 points, Wilson Hicks' 11 and Grayson Harris' 10.
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