Brian Tombs and his coaching staff weren’t all that pleased as they watched their Liberty boys basketball team compete Tuesday against Westminster, an opponent the Lions defeated by 26 points last Thursday.
This time Liberty hit the road to face the Owls, and by the looks of the coaches things weren’t progressing as planned. Rather than burn through all of his timeouts to settle his players, however, Tombs decided to let the Lions figure it out on the court.
Westminster wasn’t going away, and Liberty had to get through its own struggles in order to stay atop the Carroll County Athletic League standings.
The Lions battled themselves — and the Owls — throughout most of Tuesday’s contest before prevailing 59-48 to remain tied with Century for first place in the CCAL.
Tristan Kent, Liberty’s senior center, led the way with 18 points and 17 rebounds, and senior guard Cam Blankenship scored 16. Peyton Scheufele, a junior guard, netted 16 points to go with nine rebounds and four steals.
The Lions improved to 19-1, 10-1 in the CCAL, and avoided falling out of the top spot in the county — Century beat Winters Mill 67-40 on Tuesday to run its record 17-3, 10-1.
Liberty and Century, which split their regular-season series, each have one county game remaining. The Knights travel to South Carroll on Friday, while the Lions visit Manchester Valley next Monday.
Liberty got the win it needed Tuesday despite an inability to put together a consistent performance. But, like their coach said, it was up to the Lions to find what was missing.
“I think it depends on your team,” Tombs said. “A, we have had success. B, I have a veteran group. They know what needs to be done. So I tried to let them play through it a little bit.”
Westminster (12-9, 7-5) crafted a 14-4 run in the second quarter and got to within 23-22, after a layup from Michael Prozeller with 2:35 remaining in the frame. Liberty had missed several short- and mid-range shots to that point, and committed a few costly turnovers that led to Owls offense.
But the Lions regrouped and closed the first half on an 8-0 run — Blankenship’s runner in the lane went in as time expired to give Liberty a 31-22 halftime lead. The Lions scored six points in the first 2 minutes of the third quarter and regained control.
The Owls got to within six points in the fourth at 49-43 with less than 3 minutes to play, but the home team couldn’t mount the comeback.
Blankenship sank five of six free throws in the fourth quarter, and Kent added five points as well.
Joe Wright led Westminster with 16 points and Prozeller added 12, while Wright and Christian Etchison had five rebounds apiece.
Drue Giles four assists and three steals for the Owls, and coach Brett Kanther said his team played much better than in last week’s 67-41 setback against Liberty in Eldersburg.
Connor Stewart collected eight rebounds, seven points, and six assists for Liberty, which has a road game Friday against Franklin before next Monday’s finale against Man Valley. The Class 2A West playoffs will begin the following weekend, and the Lions want to be one of the last teams standing a few weeks from now.
Finding that cohesion on the court is the focus, Scheufele said.
“We just kind of had to get the loose balls. It was all about hustle this game,” Scheufele said. “We had to figure out what was working, what not. We just tried to huddle up and regroup. We all know basketball pretty well, we have high IQs.”
Liberty (59): Cam Blankenship 16, Jack Merchak 1, Connor Stewart 7, Peyton Scheufele 16, Nate Kent 1, Tristan Kent 18.
Westminster (48): Drue Giles 6, Terrence McDonald 8, Joe Wright 16, Jacob Busic 2, Michael Prozeller 12, Christian Etchison 4.