COVINGTON, Ga. -- The three-headed monster of Jaden Young, Ar Taylor and Keanon Taylor proved to be too much against Holy Innocents and impressive sophomore Josh Smith, in Liberty County’s 78-74 win in the opening game of the inaugural Covington News Super 8 Showcase held at Newton High School Saturday.
Early on in the game, Holy Innocents controlled the game. Smith gave the Liberty County defense fits as he drove to basket and consistently made strong finishes on his way to a game-high 31-point performance with 14 rebounds. On the Panthers side, the Jaden Young and Ar Taylor combination kept their team afloat.
A key moment in the game was when Smith was subbed out for rest with two minutes to go in the first half. Liberty County would take advantage. Down 29-27, the Panthers closed the half on a 9-2 run with Smith on the bench. The run gave Liberty a 36-31 halftime advantage.
At the start of the second half, freshman Garrison Powell scored the first five points of the half for the Golden Bears. Smith continued to score at will, and Holy Innocents climbed back into the game and regained the lead.
For Liberty County, it was Keanon Taylor who rose to the occasion, scoring 18 of his 20 in the second half. Into the fourth quarter, Taylor’s added scoring allowed the Panthers to rest either Taylor or Young -- a luxury that Holy Innocents didn’t have with Smith.
As the game went into the final seconds, still within one possession, Holy Innocents had to force a turnover to get back on offense. The Holy Innocents coaching staff believed the officials missed a blocking foul call that would have given the Bears the ball back.
The result of their outburst was a technical foul call. The call would send Jaden Young to the line, up two with a technical shot and two more free throws coming.
“I do this in practice day in and day out so I wasn’t really nervous,” Young said, “My teammates and coaches believe in me so it was a regular situation.”
That poise paid dividends. Young hit all three attempts to seal the win for Liberty County. Young finished with 21 points, K. Taylor had 20 while A. Taylor finished with 19.
For Liberty County coach Julian Stokes, he was thankful for the opportunity to compete in the showcase.
“It gives us great exposure, let’s us be seen outside of where we’re from,” Stokes said, “It’s better basketball and any time I can give my kids that type of opportunity I’ll take it.”