WINFIELD — The last three-plus weeks haven’t been all that prosperous for Liberty’s boys basketball team, which looked to get back on track Wednesday night against South Carroll.
The Lions had dropped four of their previous six games, and played some of that stretch without an all-county backcourt player in senior Connor Stewart. They got back to their strength in defeating the Cavaliers 72-32, displaying a balanced attack and getting a strong performance from another talented veteran.
Peyton Scheufele, a senior forward, finished with a game-high 17 points and guided Liberty to a dominant start in taking care of the home team early.
“We’re trying to be play our best basketball going into the playoffs,” Scheufele said. “Yeah, we may not get the [No. 1] seed or the county championship, but as long as we play our best basketball we can win a state [title].”
Liberty (9-9, 6-3 in the Carroll County Athletic League) returned some pieces from last year’s team that won 20 games and shared a county crown with Century. The Lions had to move on without a few graduated players, however, in particular the two-time reigning Player of the Year in forward Tristan Kent.
Stewart and Schefuele each averaged double-digits in scoring a year ago, but the Lions haven’t been able to string together wins like they did the two previous seasons. Plus, Stewart went down during Liberty’s game Jan. 14 against Manchester Valley with a bruised tailbone, coach Brian Tombs said, and played only a few minutes three days later in a game against Century.
Wednesday marked his first game back, and Liberty’s offensive surge and lopsided win allowed Tombs to ease his guard into the mix.
Ten players scored for the Lions, with 13 points from junior guard Justin Sheetz and 10 from sophomore guard Shane Stewart. Tombs said his team’s performance should be a boost going forward.
“You’ve got to have multiple guys that can put the ball in the basket,” said Tombs, who praised senior Nate Kent (nine points) for looking to score more Wednesday. “You’ve seen the good teams from the past. You may have your stud guy, but you look at Westminster and Century ... multiple guys who can ball in the basket and that’s what makes them so good.”
South Carroll (4-14, 3-6) won three of its last four games before matching up with Liberty, and the Cavaliers were scoring 57.5 points per game in that span. SC coach Jim Carnes has been looking for consistency on offense all year long, but he didn’t get it this time around.
The Cavs had a mere four field goals in the first half, and trailed 33-10.
South Carroll netted 16 points in the third quarter, but couldn’t get close to Liberty. Luke Anderson finished with 12 points to lead the hosts.
Meanwhile, Tombs had the luxury of getting many reserves on the court in the second half, some of which was played with a running clock because of the large deficit.
Liberty trails Century (9-1) and Westminster (8-1) in the county standings, but hosts the Owls on Friday and gets a second shot at the Knights on Feb. 14. Century won the first meeting at home, 58-55 on Jan. 17.
Scheufele said he thinks the Lions are starting to come together at the right time.
“I think our biggest thing is confidence,” the senior said. “This year it’s been about a two-minute span where we’ll have a really sloppy period and that’s when we let the game get loose.”
Liberty (72): Steven Talbot 3, Shane Stewart 10, Justin Sheetz 13, Ryan Clarke 2, Eren Tari 2, Peyton Scheufele 17, Elias Rimel 8, Nate Kent 9, Jaylen Adams 2, Justin Hyde 4.
South Carroll (32): Alex Warehime 1, Carter Chesney 4, Dylan O’Neill 2, Luke Anderson 10, Karson Pavlik 7, Aidan Greaney 2, Tucker Eckert 3, Caleb Eddins 2.
Halftime: Liberty, 33-10.
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