ELDERSBURG — Liberty boys basketball coach Brian Tombs said Shane Stewart is more of a facilitator on the court — and Stewart agreed.
Stewart, a sophomore guard, stepped outside of that role and took matters into his own hands at times in the Liberty Division consolation game Friday against South Carroll at the Liberty Holiday Basketball Tournament. His game-high 16 points helped the Lions defeat the Cavaliers 70-56, and improve to 4-4 on the season.
The Lions (4-4) rebounded after Thursday’s 65-54 loss against Wootton that set up Friday’s game against the Cavs (0-8). Liberty senior forward Peyton Scheufele contributed 13 points in the win as well.
“It’s always hard, especially after Christmas,” Stewart said. “You get those two days off from practice so you always have to get back into the flow of things. Yesterday we had a rocky start and a rocky game in general but you have to get through those times to get back to playing good and you have to keep playing good to win the game.”
Stewart said the Lions listened to Tombs’ advice to not lose their heads and keep the focus when South Carroll used runs of 12 and seven straight to come within six of the Lions late in the game. SC was down by 20 late in the third quarter when a pair of points from senior Dylan O’Neill sparked the team’s 12-0 run.
Junior guard Aidan Greaney’s 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter brought the Cavs within nine of the Lions, 52-43. A pair of free throws from Scheufele and a basket from Stewart gave the Lions a 56-43 lead, but the Cavs didn’t waver. They scored the next seven to come within six on the Lions’ home court. Scheufele and sophomore guard Elias Rimel were fouled in the fourth — Scheufele went 7-for-12 from the free throw line and Rimel went 2-for-2 in the frame.
Liberty built a 7-0 run on free throws and led 63-51 before a free throw from O’Neill cut the run. The Lions outscored the Cavs 7-5 in the remaining minutes, thanks to points from Sheetz and Scheufele. SC’s Karson Pavlik hit a 3 in the final minute, and Greaney notched a layup.
“We’ve struggled a little bit with our identity this year and we’re just finding new pieces and what’s working right now,” Tombs said. “Just getting the win is a good thing — mentally — for the kids. They played well, and we still go through some spurts where we lose focus a little bit but again, we’re eight games into the season so we’re still a little bit behind the 8-ball because we just haven’t had everybody for most of the year.
“I think we’ve had everybody for a week now, so we’re figuring some things out and trying to get better each day.”
The Lions dominated the first half of the game, and led 21-7 after the first quarter. The second quarter was a more even battle, and the Lions outscored the Cavs 17-15.
“I usually look back to practice and see what I would do there and translate it to the game and I see what’s open,” Stewart said. “If my teammate is open, I just give them the ball and run the offense and if I see something wide open I’ll take it and go from there.”
South Carroll (56): Matt McNally 1, Alex Warehime 6, Luc Borghans 2, Carter Chesney 5, Luke Anderson 11, Karson Pavlik 7, Aidan Greaney 9, Dylan O’Neill 10, Tucker Eckert 5.
Liberty (70): Shane Stewart 16, Justin Sheetz 7, Ryan Clarke 7, Connor Stewart 4, Peyton Scheufele 13, Eren Tari 6, Elias Rimel 3, Steven Talbot 7, Jayden Adams 7.