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Liberty's Jack Selby looks to pass against Mount Hebron on December 28, 2017.
Liberty's Jack Selby looks to pass against Mount Hebron on December 28, 2017. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO)

Expectations for the Liberty High boys basketball team are pretty simple this season.

The Lions feel anything short of a trip to the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center to play in a Class 2A state tournament would be a huge disappointment.

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Liberty coach Brian Tombs has built his best team in six seasons, and the proof is a stellar 7-1 start.

“It’s always been talk,” Tombs said of reaching the final four. “This year, it’s not talk. If we are clicking on all cylinders, it would take almost a perfect game to beat us. You have to be a pretty good team to knock us off.”

Liberty, led by the inside-outside combination of two returning starters, junior point guard Jack Selby and 6-foot-6 junior center Tristan Kent, have been joined on the varsity by a batch of newcomers promoted from last year’s junior varsity team that went 19-2.

They include junior guards Cameron Blankenship and Ryan Luthe, and sophomore forward Peyton Scheufele, all starters and all of whom have elevated the play of the entire team.

Liberty's Tristan Kent shoots against Mount Hebron December 28, 2017.
Liberty's Tristan Kent shoots against Mount Hebron December 28, 2017. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO)

“This group has really come in and pushed my upperclassmen to a whole new level,” Tombs said. “They learned how to win in many different ways. It’s a hungry group of kids that just love playing basketball. The young kids bring in a wealth of experience. They play all the time.”

Tombs said the chemistry among his players is the best he’s seen since he took the job in the 2012, and he said that he can’t imagine it being any better.

“This group is together all the time,” the coach explained. “It’s a fun group to be around, but they have a competitive edge. (Sometimes) you have your groups of kids where you may have three or four here, or three or four there, that are close. But not a 13-man roster that is, for the most part, just inseparable.”

Depth is another huge asset.

Senior guards Steven Goetz and Ronak Morgan, senior forward Ben Brown, sophomore guard Connor Stewart, and junior Tim Cortese give Liberty quality minutes off the bench.

“I would say our depth is the No. 1 reason why we are off to a good start,” Tombs said. “We are just able to wear teams out as the game goes on. In past years, we have been limited to five or six kids and maybe you can squeeze in a seventh. I can play up to 10 kids with no issues.”

The 5-foot-8 Selby plays as many minutes as any Lion.

He’s a reliable ball handler and fierce competitor who consistently hit shots from the perimeter.

Selby, a three-year starter, is averaging 9.8 points, 3.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game.

He scored a season-high 15 points in Liberty’s season opener, a 71-62 victory over Walkersville in early December.

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“He is a clutch player,” Tombs said. “Twice last year he hit game-winning shots. His composure level is phenomenal. He doesn’t get rattled.”

Kent is an offensive threat and an aggressive player under the boards. He is averaging 14.6 points and 9.3 rebounds.

Kent totaled 23 points and 12 rebounds in the Lions’ 76-60 triumph over Catoctin in the Liberty Holiday Tournament opener on Dec. 27.

“This year, by far he is the best big man in the county,” Tombs said.

Liberty’s two county games prior to its holiday tourney were both convincing victories — a 71-17 rout against Winters Mill, and a 53-32 win over rival South Carroll.

Tombs and his players have more than just a regional championship on their minds.

“We would like to win the county title,” Selby said. “The way we have been playing, it’s definitely a realistic goal.”

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