Peyton Scheufele entered his senior basketball season at Liberty High School aware of what his role would be.
Scheufele and teammate Nate Kent, both seniors, missed the first week-and-a-half of practice because the Lions’ football team was making program history by playing in the Class 2A state quarterfinals. However, the transition from football to basketball didn’t seem to keep Scheufele from knowing what to expect.
Liberty posted 20 wins last winter and shared a piece of the Carroll County Athletic League title with crosstown rival Century. The Lions graduated their share of senior leadership in Tristant Kent, a two-time Times Basketball Player of the Year, and fellow all-countians Jack Merchak and Cam Blankenship.
They started the season 16-0, a streak that included a thrilling overtime victory Jan. 11 over the Knights. 11. Scheufele scored the layup that gave Liberty a 79-78 lead — its first of the game — and the win.
“Last year we had Tristan so that was an easy 20-25 points per game,” Scheufele said. “This year, Coach [Brian] Tombs told me my role would be to score, me and Connor [Stewart]. If it’s there, I’m going to shoot it, but I’m not looking.
“I don’t have to score 25 points a game. If it’s there, I’m going to shoot it, but if I can find open teammates and as long as we win, that’s all that matters.”
Scheufele, a forward, leads the Lions with 16.8 points per game through six games, and also topped the county in field-goal percentage (64.0) entering play Friday.
The Lions are 2-3 after they dropped their first two contests of the season — an 80-77 overtime loss at Laurel, and a home-opening 86-68 loss against Franklin. Scheufele came up big and put up 33 points against the Spartans, and had 21 points against the Indians.
“We have a lot of young guys, so me, Nate, and Connor try to step up in a leadership role,” Scheufele said. “That first game, Coach said we weren’t trying to schedule a ‘cupcake’ game and we wanted to test our abilities against a 4A school. We put up a good fight and that’s what we wanted. Win or lose, we don’t really look at results, as long as we play our best.”
Scheufele notched 14 points in the team’s 61-48 win over Frederick on Dec. 12. Kent contributed a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Stewart scored eight points.
“Peyton’s off to a great start, and I think it’s because he knows he has to shoulder some of that scoring load right now,” Tombs said. “He’s also a confident individual and his skill set is good because he’s playing the [post] for us, so he gets a lot of mismatches. It’s tough for some other schools to guard him because he shoots the ball well, and he can put it on the floor.
“He’s pretty quick, so those are all areas he’s benefiting from.”
Scheufele is a three-sport standout in football, basketball, and baseball for the Lions, and has been playing all three sports since he was 5 years old. He picked up AAU in eighth grade after playing recreational basketball and played until his sophomore year at Liberty in 2017-18. Tombs pulled Scheufele and Stewart up from the junior varsity team where they split playing time with the varsity squad.
The Lions won their first outright county title in 35 years and posted a 20-4 record that winter.
Tombs, in his eighth season as the Lions’ head coach, said the duo have another level of energy that is “unmatched.”
“I can maybe come up with a handful of kids that might actually equal them, but no one will beat their work ethic or their motor,” Tombs said. “Both of those two kids drip sweat. They will go until they can’t anymore. The competitiveness from those two has set them above anyone else, even as sophomores, that gave them that edge to playing at the varsity level and it just hasn’t stopped.”
“It carried through all their sports, it’s just who they are and I don’t know that it’s something you can teach. Our kids work hard and I expect a lot from them and they do a great job.”
Liberty opened county play at home against Francis Scott Key on Dec. 17, and the Lions won 57-47. Scheufele helped the Lions hold FSK to just 16 second-half points and scored 11 of his own. He added 11 points in Liberty’s 60-57 loss at Marriotts Ridge on Friday.
“One of the biggest things I like is our big crowds, and the student section has been pretty good the last few years,” Scheufele said. “A lot of my friends come to the games to support us. The coaches and atmosphere here are trying to make you better, not just in the sport, but to make you a better young man all around.”