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New Town too much for Liberty in boys hoops 2A state quarterfinal

The environment of Saturday’s Class 2A state quarterfinal would rival the scene at any venue hosting March Madness in the coming weeks.

The raucous, Hawaiian-clad Liberty student section brought noise, and a spirited Lions defense kept New Town’s powerful offense at bay early in the game and kept the contest close. Freshman Camaren Sparrow helped the Titans find their footing in the second half, however, and roll to a 70-50 victory.

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Sparrow and senior Twan Carter each hit 3-pointers during an 11-2 run to start the third quarter that took a slim 31-27 lead to an 11-point advantage for the Titans.

“Coach told us not to let our foot off the gas,” Sparrow said. “We came out on a mission, just keep on the ball, get in rhythm. I started to get going after I saw one go in.”

The Titans continued to build on the momentum after that, sprinting out to a 20-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. The size of New Town’s frontcourt started to wear down the Lions as Titans senior Andrew Mills crashed the glass with four rebounds and racked up 16 points inside.

“I honestly thought we played absolutely horrible today,” New Town coach Derek Wise said. “I have to credit them, they move the ball really well. They can shoot the ball and they’re well coached. They play hard. Credit to them — they really earned it and deserve to be here. We made the necessary stops down the stretch. Proud of my guys for gutting it out and coming away with a win but we have some work to do.”

Both offenses started the game slowly as the contest was scoreless after two minutes. Each team struggled to break through before Liberty senior Peyton Scheufele got the Lions going with a shot from downtown. Scheufele had a 3-pointer and a pair of 2-point baskets as the Lions had the game tied at 20-all midway through the second quarter.

Late in the second quarter, Scheufele left with a wrist injury but returned at the start of the third, determined not miss the second half of his final game.

“I think the last three weeks of the season is where we kind of came together and started playing really well," Scheufele said. "That’s what made us get this far — the great bond and team chemistry we have. I am definitely going to miss it. Been playing basketball since the time I was five. Our student section and our fans made it great this year. The support has been unreal.”

Shane Stewart helped keep the Lions afloat, leading all Liberty scorers with 18 points. Scheufele finished with 11 points, three rebounds, and a couple of assists. Fellow senior Connor Stewart had three rebounds and was a menace on defense, taking three charges.

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“Talk about tough kids,” Liberty coach Brian Tombs said. “[Scheufele] and Connor have been staples of our program for a long time. They play tough, they go after it. They don’t care who you are. They are going to compete against you — they get after it. It was just a tough matchup for us.”

Mills finished with 19 to lead the Titans, while Carter and Sparrow each had 14 with four 3-pointers apiece. Mills scored the majority of his points in the paint, including one fastbreak dunk early in the second half that extended New Town’s lead to 14.

“They are a good team,” Tombs said. “I thought defensively we did a good job cutting their penetration early in the game. We were more composed and able to slow the game down. In the second half they got out more on us. Part of that is just they are just big and strong and they battle. I give credit to our guys. They played hard, can’t ask for much more than that.”

Liberty (50): Shane Stewart 18; Peyton Scheufele 11; Justin Sheetz 8; Jayden Adams 4; Elias Rimel 3; Connor Stewart 2; Nathan Kent 2; Justin Hyde 2.

New Town (70): Andrew Mills 19; Twan Carter 14; Camaren Sparrow 14; Martaz Robinson 10; Stephon Marcano 7; Cameron Blackmon-Bush 4.

HALFTIME: NT, 31-27

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