ELDERSBURG — The Francis Scott Key boys basketball team found itself in the wrong place at the wrong time Tuesday night when it took the court against host Liberty.
The Lions were a little steamed and out to prove something after losing to Tuscarora six days earlier. It snapped Liberty’s six-game winning streak.
Tuesday’s final score proved the Eagles right: Liberty 58, FSK 46.
“A little bit of adversity in a season is a good thing,” said Liberty coach Brian Tombs, whose team improved to 8-2 overall and 3-0 in the county. “But you want to have confidence and get rolling (again). The county win keeps us undefeated, which is a good thing.”
Liberty junior center Tristan Kent helped the Lions pull away from the Falcons in the fourth quarter by scoring eight straight points. He finished with a team-high 14 and teammate Jack Merchak, a junior guard, added 13 points.
“We probably don’t win that game if he doesn’t complete those buckets under the basket with a couple of foul shots,” Tombs said.
FSK senior guard Amir Cole totaled 21 points, nine rebounds and three steals and senior guard Josh Brown had 13 points and three steals.
The Eagles only had four players score.
Brown made consecutive layups to begin the final period to trim the Lions lead to 40-35.
Liberty went up by double digits, 47-37, for the first time early in the fourth quarter on Cam Blankenship’s layup.
The Lions only built their lead from there to put the game out of reach. Kent’s layup with 1:22 remaining gave the hosts a 57-42 lead.
“I thought we just played with more energy and played more as a team,” Kent said. “It was at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter.”
FSK (4-5, 2-3) started the third quarter on a 7-2 run in the first 2:30 and Brown highlighted it with a 3-pointer as his team went ahead 29-26.
The Lions answered with a 9-2 bulge to go back ahead 35-29 and take the lead for good. Liberty closed the third quarter with a 5-0 burst as Merchak keyed it with a a 3-pointer.
Liberty also played well to start the game and jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first two minutes as Kent scored the Lions’ points. Ronak Morgan’s 3-point play gave Liberty a 11-5 lead with 2:59 to go.
Kent’s putback put the Lions ahead 15-8 with 18 seconds remaining, but Cole made a layup right before the buzzer.
Liberty opened the second quarter with a 6-2 run in the first two minutes to take a 19-10 lead and Jack Selby capped it with a layup.
FSK had its best stretch in the first half late in the quarter. The Eagles used a 10-0 run over 3:26 to take a 22-21 lead with 44 seconds and a pair of Brown free throws ended the stretch. Liberty had five turnovers during that span.
Liberty’s Tim Cortese closed the first half score with a 10-foot jump shot to make it 23-22 at the break.
Cole led all scorers at the half with 10 points.
“He is the engine that drives the train offensively,” said FSK coach Ryan Kimble, whose team was without guard Anthony Murray because of injury. “When [Cole] gives a great effort like he did tonight, we feel we can beat pretty much anyone.”
Liberty (58): Tristan Kent 14, Cameron Blankenship 4, Jack Selby 8, Peyton Scheufele 6, Jack Merchak 13, Connor Stewart 5, Ronak Morgan 6, Tim Cortese 2.
Francis Scott Key (46): Noah Vipond 9, Amir Cole 21, Josh Brown 13, Grant Stanton 3.
Halftime: Liberty, 23-22.