The last time Liberty and Manchester Valley met, the Lions suffered a two-point loss to the Mavericks. This time, the tables were turned.
Liberty used a third-period surge to overcome MV in a 60-51 victory on Wednesday, handing the Mavericks their first loss of the season.
Senior guards Maddee Farley and Olivia Thompson led the Lions (12-6, 11-2 county). Farley had a game-high 24 points and Thompson had 14. Both teams have already secured spots in the county championship game, which will be held at South Carroll High School on Tuesday.
"It's definitely extremely exciting," Thompson said. "We have to keep in mind that we play them Tuesday so we can be excited but it can only last so long because we have a really important game ahead of us."
Liberty opened the game on a 5-0 run with points from Griffin and Farley, but the Mavericks (19-1, 11-1 county) quickly responded with a 6-0 run that tied the game at 7-7. Baskets from sophomore guards Mackenzie DeWees and Jayce Klingenberg gave the Mavs a 13-9 lead with under four minutes remaining.
The Mavs never led by more than four points.
Farley and Thompson combined for nine points to help the Lions gain an 18-17 lead to close out the first period. The seniors expected nothing less than a competitive start between the county's top teams.
"After losing, we were all looking forward to this game the whole season and it's been building since it's one of our last games," Farley said. "We were extremely ready for this."
After another close period, the Lions found themselves down 24-23 at the half. The Lions were held to just five points and the Mavericks scored seven.
The Lions steadily pulled away in the third frame after Thompson's basket put the Lions ahead by one. At the start of the fourth frame, Liberty held a 12-point advantage over Man Valley. The Mavs mounted a slight comeback in the final frame, scoring 19 points, but it wasn't enough to outlast the Lions.
Liberty coach Barry Green said he witnessed his team play the best defense he has seen in 18 games. The Lions held the Mavericks to just 19 points in the second half.
"We weren't missing a lot in that third quarter," Green said. "We were making shots in the paint and 3-pointers off the swing pass and I think all of that occurred because of the intensity of the defense. The girls brought the effort, they brought the focus and the intensity tonight."
DeWees led MV with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and four steals. Klingenberg added 15 points and nine assists.
Mavericks coach Heather DeWees said that sometimes a loss isn't a bad thing. Rather, it gives a team the ability to take it as an opportunity to learn from some mistakes and take them to heart.
"Liberty played outstanding and shot very well from the floor," DeWees said. "They were very methodical and mature with the ball.
"I have to commend my team, they played until the very end and did not give up, with four minutes, two minutes left. They stuck it out until the very end."
Liberty (60): Grace Griffin 10, Maddee Farley 24, Olivia Thompson 14, Lexi Jones 12.
Manchester Valley (51): Rayna Deltuva 9, Jayce Klingenberg 15, Mackenzie Longest 2, Mackenzie DeWees 19, Marlee Dzergoski 4, Storm Smith 2.
Halftime: MV, 24-23.