Palo Verde junior Moses Morgan said he spends at least 30 minutes a day working on free throws.
It showed on Friday night.
Morgan shot 16-for-16 from the foul line, including six in the final 31 seconds, to help the Panthers gain a 78-71 road victory over second-ranked Liberty.
“I had to knock them down at the end of the game,” Morgan said. “In the fourth quarter, crunch time, I had to knock them down.”
Liberty trimmed the lead to 72-70 on a 3-pointer by Milos Knezevic with 32 seconds to play. But Morgan’s strong free-throw shooting sealed the victory.
Morgan finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots.
“You’ve got to live and die with a kid like that,” Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley said. “He means so much to the program and he means so much to the team with his leadership. Not only that, he’s just a great character kid. It’s always great to have a player like that.”
Seventh-ranked Palo Verde led 38-31 at halftime, but the Patriots stormed back and closed the gap to 56-55 entering the fourth quarter.
Liberty’s Kenneth Peters, who sat out much of the first half in foul trouble, scored 12 of his 15 points in the third quarter to spark the rally.
“Liberty came out (in the second half) with a passion and they came out aggressive,” Riley said. “They went to a box-and-one, and our guys, it frustrated them a little bit.”
A put-back basket by Morgan triggered a 6-2 Palo Verde run to begin the final quarter, and the Panthers were in control the rest of the way.
It was the Panthers’ second big road victory of the week. They knocked off fifth-ranked Silverado 66-57 on Tuesday.
“Two wins on the road, that says a lot about our team early,” Riley said.
Davion Pearson, who transferred from Liberty before the season, added 13 points and 11 rebounds for Palo Verde.
“It shows a lot that these guys went to war for him,” Riley said. “That’s the team chemistry we need.”
Bryce Cotton also scored 13 for Palo Verde.
Knezevic led Liberty with 28 points and 16 rebounds.