UNIONTOWN — Liberty’s girls basketball team earned its first win of the season in dominating fashion.
The Lions, led by Samantha Hardy and Rachel Thiem, never lost their way as they secured a 72-34 victory over Francis Scott Key to open Carroll County Athletic League play for both teams Tuesday.
Lions coach Barry Green said he is hopeful that this is the beginning of what his Lions players are purposed to do as the season continues. It goes hand-in-hand with the relationships these players have developed with one another and how they prepare on a daily basis.
Sophomore Jess Littlejohn could attest to that.
“I think our main thing is teamwork,” Littlejohn said. “We look ahead, we trust our teammates and that’s the main thing we focus on. Trust that they’re going to be there for us and that we’re going to be there for them.”
Littlejohn scored 12 points, added four rebounds and two steals and assists apiece for the Lions (1-2, 1-0 CCAL). Hardy led the way with 19 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three steals and Thiem contributed with 17 points, two rebounds and two assists.
The Lions picked up a 16-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, thanks to points from Val Thompson, Hardy, and Thiem. FSK’s Hailey Mursch scored five of the Eagles’ nine points in the frame.
A pair of free throws and a basket from Hardy, and a 3-pointer from Kayla Allen helped the Lions garner a 23-11 lead early in the second quarter. Ally Mathias notched a layup to get the Eagles back on the board with 5:37 left to play.
Senior Rachel Wright sent a pass to teammate Shelby Bay, who was all alone underneath the opposing basket to secure a pair of baskets for the Eagles, but the Lions capitalized on a pair of FSK turnovers and responded with eight straight to take a commanding 31-15 lead.
“Our main philosophy is running the floor and pushing the ball up the floor and getting to the basket as quickly as possible so the defense can’t even set up,” Littlejohn said. That’s just how we run our game and how we play our game.”
Littlejohn hit a 3 and Thiem followed suit shortly after and the Lions used a free throw from Hardy and another basket from Thiem to lead 40-25 at the break.
Liberty sank four points before Mathias hit a 3 to trim the deficit to 44-28, but the Lions outscored the Eagles 7-2 to close out the third quarter with a 57-32 lead. Littlejohn scored nine of her 12 points in the second half.
“Last year was more my development year to develop my skills and get used to the varsity mentality,” Littlejohn said. “This year, I’m just trying to increase my game and get better as I continue.”
Francis Scott Key fell to 0-4 with the loss and the reigning county champions have faced some struggles early on. The Eagles graduated one of its top scorers in Karla Stonesifer, the reigning Times Player of the Year, and Savannah Brooks, a sophomore, transferred to Springdale Preparatory School in New Windsor after finishing her freshman season with 10.9 points, 5.5 rebound, and 3.4 assists per game.
Stonesifer led the team with 12.0 points per game and also led the county with 11.4 rebounds per game. The Eagles also graduated senior leadership in Kennedy Cornick, Bailey Mathias, and Sara Warthen.
“We’ve got pretty much a whole new group so it’s just a matter of playing together and when adversity hits, we have to figure out where our grit and where the camaraderie comes from, and I challenged them with that tonight,” Eagles coach TJ Develin said. “There’s a lot of ... timid play where we’re not sure of ourselves and somehow it’s got to get better and that’s on me to figure it out.”
Liberty (72): Kayla Allen 8, Samantha Hardy 19, Rachel Thiem 17, Jordan Nastos 1, Kassie O’Hern 2, Jess Littlejohn 12, Val Thompson 13.
Francis Scott Key (34): Ally Mathias 9, Rachel Wright 4, Shelby Bay 2, Haley Mursch 9, Darlene Brown 4, Hannah Boyer 2, Ashlyn Watkins 2, Brooke Boyer 2.