In many ways Liberty-Eylau lost a battle not to their opponent, North Lamar, but to itself as the Lady Leopards were unable to hit many of their shots, leading to their 48-39 loss Tuesday night.
"We cut their lead to one (point) two or three times (late), and we just couldn't quite get over the edge," L-E coach Aquanetta Watson said. "We would go down and play awesome defense, but it's like the rim wasn't big enough for us tonight for us to find that hole. It's going to be tough shooting 24 percent from the field."
The Lady Leopards (15-8, 1-1) out-rebounded the Pantherettes (9-12, 1-1) and forced more turnovers then they committed, but fell short in its shooting percentage, shooting 24 percent from the field and only making three of 14 free throws.
L-E, an aggressive team defensively, was faced with a sufficient challenge from North Lamar, which had just come off a difficult loss against Pleasant Grove.
Despite a poor shooting percentage the Leopards were constantly nipping at the heels of the Pantherettes and managed to bring the score to within two 10 times.
Twice L-E took the lead in the first half and twice it looked like they might break through that wall again late, but every time it gained some momentum North Lamar was their to snuff it out.
North Lamar claimed the tipoff and put the game in motion as Madison Morrison laid in the first bucket. After trading a couple baskets the game was tied at four before Morrison dropped in a trey and Summer Andrews added her deuce to put the visitors up by five.
The Leopards responded with three unanswered baskets to take the lead 10-9 as they began to beat on the wall.
In the waning seconds of the first quarter Andrews hit a putback jumper to tip the scales back to North Lamar.
North Lamar was visibly on the attack, affecting L-E's game and resulting in a reactive Leopard team as opposed to proactive.
Second quarter play was a continuation of the first as North Lamar kept L-E on its toes, but only outscoring the host by one.
Morrison put the Pantherettes up by four with a quick putback in the second. The Leopard's Derrica Henderson, who had a double-double on the night with 10 points and 12 rebounds, laid in a basket of her own to cut the lead to two. North Lamar answered with four points. Back and fourth they went, ending the quarter 20-18 in favor of North Lamar.
Once more, as the third stanza began, L-E was confronted with the wall, and a new wall builder Bailee Nickerson who came alive in the second half for North Lamar scoring 13 points, nine of which came in the third. Nickerson scored the first three baskets for the Pantherettes in the third quarter.
Liberty Eylau fought hard and at 3:04 Taylor Crabtree penetrated the Pantherettes defense and gave the Leopards their second lead. The excitement of being back in the game was short lived as McKenzie Mitchell regained the lead for North Lamar.
L-E was down by three at the start of the final quarter. Crabtree brought it to within one with a layup a 5:24; that was as close as the Leopards came as they began to fall behind.
"We told them in the locker room, if the shot's not falling, you've got to drive and trust your left hand or right hand," Watson said. "Trust your drive, see the ball go in the bucket, and that bucket starts getting bigger for you. It's a tough loss; for them it's a L-Earning experience. We'll get ready for the one here Friday against Atlanta."
Morrison led North Lamar and all scorers with 18 points, and Nickerson had 13.
Liberty-Eylau won the junior varsity game, 42-16, with Aaliyah Thompson scoring 15 points and Mycah Hurd adding 10.
North Lamar won the 9th grade game, 33-29, in overtime. Ashlyn Reavis led the Panthers with 17 points. Tamara Simpkins had nine for L-E, and Ke'lexus Jackson added eight.
North Lamar 11 9 14 14 — 48
Liberty-Eylau 10 8 13 8 — 39
NL (48): Figueroa 1 0-0 2, Morrison 5 7-11 18, Mitchell 1 0-0 2, Andrews 3 0-2 6, Fischer 0 3-5 3, Drennen 1 0-0 2, Nickerson 5 2-2 13, Prunty 0 2-4 2, TOTALS 16 14-24 48.
L-E (39): Crabtree 6 0-2 12, Howard 1 0-2 2, Henderson 5 0-2 10, Johnson 1 0-2 3, K. Thompson 1 1-2 3, Ka. Norris 2 0-0 5, Stivers-Brown 0 2-2 2, Gentry 1 0-0 2, Ke. Norris 0 0-2 0, TOTALS 17 3-14 39.
3-point goals: NL-Morrison, Nickerson; LE-Johnson, Ka. Norris. Team fouls: North Lamar 16, Liberty-Eylau 21. Fouled out: Crabtree.