Although Liberty has made dramatic strides with its girls basketball program over the last year and a half, last night it found out what the next level looks like.
Urbana (7-1), No. 17 in the state and the top-ranked Class 2A team, was in control for more than 20 minutes, and then on the verge of blowing an 11-point second-half lead. It regrouped and capitalized on a series of Liberty turnovers and missed shots to earn a 53-44 Central Maryland Conference victory.
Later, second-year Liberty coach Dave Trumbo challenged his players when he said, holding his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart, "We are this close to being an excellent team.
"We play hard in games, but that work ethic has not been there in practices, and we have to work in practice to make each other better. Right now, they have to make a decision how badly they want to play. The fun is in beating people."
Citing Urbana, he added, "They are well-organized, well-schooled, and they play hard, with aggressiveness."
Moments before, Urbana coach Chris Krivos had said much the same thing about the attitude of his team: "We think we can play with anybody." Urbana has, too, even with No. 1 McDonogh, which administered its only loss.
Still, Liberty managed to weather an early scoring drought. It climbed from a 15-point deficit in the second quarter, then reduced a 33-22 halftime score to 41-38 with one minute gone in the fourth quarter. Six players scored in the run, with Michelle Allen and Meredith Priddy making two baskets each.
That was the Lions' last gasp.
The visitors worked a backdoor play for one basket, hit an open shot for another, then got a contested layup and a wide-open one, restoring an 11-point lead, while Liberty had another dry spell marked by missed shots and unforced turnovers.
Liberty (6-3) had not played in two weeks, but Urbana was coming off a holiday tournament championship in Frederick last week, beating Middletown for the title.
Senior Kelly Sadtler, tournament MVP, continued that caliber of play with 20 points, including four three-pointers, followed by Pam Kenney, a 5-foot-9 inside player, who had 17 points. Sadtler has already signed to attend Shepherd College.
It was, however, another senior on this veteran team that won the CMC championship last winter who drew praise from Krivos.
"Colleen Cox is normally one of Liberty's top scorers [12-point average] and she had two baskets," Krivos said. "She had trouble getting open because Jen Baclawski did a great defensive job. Last year, she held Cox to nine and four points in our two wins.
"Cox moves well without the ball, and has a good series of fakes to get open, but when she gets only four points, Liberty is in trouble."
Pub Date: 1/06/99