The last time Carroll County rivals Liberty and Century met in a girls basketball game before Wednesday was March 4, 2020, when the Lions eliminated the Knights in the Class 2A West Region 1 final.
It took 10 months for the teams to play a competitive game again, but they finally tangled in Eldersburg and the Lions poured it on in the second half and earned a 56-31 victory.
Liberty rode a balanced scoring attack led by Alex Bull and Jess Littlejohn (11 points each), Samantha Hardy (10 points), and Kayla Allen (nine).
Century was led by Abby Barnes (seven) and Eva Brandt (five). Century only trailed 15-12 with 2:27 left in the first half, but Liberty outscored the hosts 41-19 the rest of the way.
“It took us the first half to adjust, but overall we improved tremendously the second half to come out strong and play or game the way we know how to play,” said Bull, who added eight rebounds and four steals.
Century’s tough man-to-man defense staked the hosts to a 9-7 lead in the first quarter and force eight Liberty turnovers.
Eva Brandt, a Times all-county first-team pick last year, had four rebounds, two blocked shots, and a steal in the opening period.
“She is going to have her moments in the game, our job is to limit those moments,” Liberty coach Barry Green said. “She is an outstanding player.”
A layup by Hardy and free throw by Kayla Allen gave the Lions an 10-9 lead, but Brandt’s putback pushed the Knights ahead 11-10 with 5:30 left in the half.
Liberty closed with a 12-3 run to close the half. Allen scored five points in the second quarter and canned the first 3-pointer of the game, and Hardy contributed with three blocked shots before intermission.
In the second half the Lions put their versatility, depth and running game on display.
“We have a lot of players who actually play a couple positions, so we can get as many people in and rotate whoever we want, that way we always have fresh legs to be able to push as hard as we can because we want to run up and down the court, that’s our game,” Bull said.
Liberty outscored Century 13-7 in the third quarter, sparked by 3-pointers from Bull and Maddi Haggerty (six points, six rebounds).
Green praised his team’s ability to adjust on the fly and take on different challenges.
“They are extremely unselfish and they are willing to change roles, sometimes within the game in which they are playing,” he said.
One of those was Littlejohn, who had six assists. “She is one of the three most versatile players. She plays one through five,” Green said.
Brandt led the Knights with 12 rebounds and added three steals and two blocks. Century coach Danielle Fieni praised the way her squad opened the game, but hoped for more consistency.
“We prepared for everything and in the first quarter it was very evident,” she said. “We knew the game plan and what we were doing and then we lost focus, but it’s mostly just execution and making sure we are sticking too what we know and what we do well.”
Despite the opening loss, the coach was glad to be playing a real game for a change.
“We were just happy to get here. We didn’t even know we were going to get a game in with everything happening.” Fieni said. “They are just happy to be playing.”
Liberty (56): Alex Bull 11, Jess Littlejohn 11, Samantha Hardy 10, Kayla Allen 9, Maddi Haggerty 6, Jenna Liska 6, Kassie O’Hern 2, Hailey Seaton 1.
Century (31): Abby Barnes 7, Eva Brandt 5, Mia Graff 4, Demma Hall 4, Sam Seledee 4, Erin Mellendick 3, Kailyn Jones 2, Emma Gordon 2.