ELDERSBURG — Liberty’s offense is on the move.
The Lions used plenty of their scoring threats to defeat Marriotts Ridge 80-54 at Liberty on Monday to remain undefeated through a four-game start, and they’re already averaging more than 77 points per game.
Lions senior center Tristan Kent attributed the team’s success to its unwavering chemistry on the court — the players can identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses and work off of those to make the team better balanced. The reigning Times Player of the Year led the way with 23 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks.
“We just have a ton of weapons with this big guy,” Lions senior guard Jack Merchak said, nodding in Kent’s direction.” With all of our guards, we just shoot well and move the ball well. With our offense the way it is, we have the freedom to do basically whatever and we switch it up.”
Merchak scored 19 points and added nine rebounds and six assists. Cameron Blankenship collected six rebounds and three steals, and Connor Stewart and Peyton Scheufele each notched five assists apiece.
Lions coach Brian Tombs praised his veteran group of players — all of them have at least one year of varsity experience under their belt.
“It’s a talented group with multifaceted guards that can put the ball on the floor and score from outside,” Tombs said. “Obviously the presence inside with Tristan helps that much more because its hard to guard him with one guy. That leaves our guards one-on-one and all four of them are good enough to beat most guys one-on-one, so we like to get up and down the floor, they like to play fast-paced so obviously it leads to some more opportunities for us.”
The Lions scored 11 straight points in the first quarter to build a 17-12 lead, thanks to 3-pointers from Merchak and Kent. Junior guard Nate Kent’s layup in the second quarter sparked a 7-0 run for the Lions before Marriotts Ridge coach Tim Brady called a timeout.
Junior center Cameron Brown’s steal led to a pair of points to trim the deficit to 37-22, but a dunk from Tristan Kent with less than four minutes to go gave the Lions a 20-point advantage and they carried a 48-26 lead into the break.
Liberty opened the second half with another 11-0 scoring spurt. The Lions scored 20 total points in the third quarter to hold on to a 68-39 lead at the start of the fourth.
Five different Lions scored points for the home team in the final frame and the Mustangs scored 15, the most of any quarter.
Amari Little and Ryan Lee paved the way for the Mustangs with nine points apiece.
The Lions won 20 games and the Carroll County Athletic League title last season, but saw it end in a Class 2A West sectional final against Oakdale.
They’re determined to make it even further in 2018-19.
“We’re returning most of our guys so just being able to have that opportunity to go back there and get to the Xfinity Center, that’s always the goal,” said Tristan Kent, referring to University of Maryland and the annual site of the state championship games. “Winning the county again obviously is important.”
Liberty (80): Ryan Luthe 2, Cameron Blankenship 6, Jack Merchak 19, Connor Stewart 16, Peyton Scheufele 10, Nate Kent 2, Tim Cortese 2, Tristan Kent 23.
Marriotts Ridge (54): Amari Little 9, Robinson Davis 6, Brandon Held 6, Ryan Lee 9, Ira Snell 3, Jaylin Moore 4, John Miller 8, Cole Brown 1, Cooper Stepke 4.
Halftime: Liberty, 48-26.