When Liberty and Century met in their girls basketball season opener a little more than three weeks ago, the Lions enjoyed a 25-point road victory. The rematch took place Friday night, and while the outcome remained the same the specifics were quite different.
And yet Liberty coach Barry Green said he was more pleased this time around.
“Not the way we would have planned it or drawn it up, from beginning to end,” said Green, whose Lions watched their double-digit halftime lead all but evaporate in the third quarter. “But it is the way we prefer to win.”
Century landed a serious comeback blow before the Lions gathered themselves in the fourth quarter and held on for a 47-35 victory to stay undefeated this winter. Liberty (8-0) got 14 points apiece from seniors Alex Bull and Sam Hardy, and Hardy added 10 rebounds for a double-double.
The Knights (6-2) held the home team to two points in the third, and a 3-pointer from Demma Hall midway through the frame cut the Lions’ lead to 30-26. Hardy scored down low with 1:34 to go in the quarter, but Eva Brandt’s free throw on the next possession kept Century close. And when she converted a layup early in the fourth, the Knights trailed by only three points.
“For a while we’ve struggled with coming out after sitting at halftime, after having such a good run in the first half,” Bull said. “Today was one of those days where [Century] came out with more intensity than we did. … We had to overcome a lot to be able to keep our lead.”
Liberty responded with 5:30 to play when Hardy sank two free throws, and the Lions got the ball back on a defensive jump ball at the other end. Kayla Allen’s 3-pointer from the right wing made it 37-29, and Century found itself in catch-up mode once more.
Brandt finished with 11 points for the Knights and Hall had eight. The Knights were without junior guard Caroline Little, who sported a protective boot on her ankle. Century coach Danielle Fieni said Little suffered an injury Thursday in practice (Little had 13 points in her team’s win Wednesday over Manchester Valley).
Fieni said the Knights talked at halftime about looking too scared in the first 16 minutes, which prompted their spirited third quarter.
“The score doesn’t show how close that game was,” said Fieni, who expressed pride in how her girls have fared this season. “We didn’t practice at all this week and we played Manchester Valley … I didn’t know what to expect when you don’t practice for a week. Just the way that they’ve been able to come together, they way that they’re playing, it’s showing that they belong here.”
Meanwhile, Liberty leaned on its experience to persevere Friday. Green credited floor leaders such as Bull, Hardy, and Littlejohn, who picked up her third personal foul early in the third quarter but returned a few minutes later because the Lions needed her ball-handling skills in crunch time.
Littlejohn finished with 11 assists and four steals, and Hardy added three steals. Bull, who is committed to play at Salisbury next year, came into the game averaging 16 points and 8.9 rebounds.