Westminster senior Ryan Carr began his night by sinking a pair of free throws even before any time had run off the clock, thanks to a pre-game technical foul.
By night's end, the guard had succeeded in sinking Liberty's hopes for a landmark victory, scoring a season-high 34 points - including 12 in the final 2:49 of the first half - to propel the host No. 19 Owls to a 68-59 win in an emotional matchup of Carroll County unbeatens.
"He was a blast to watch tonight," Westminster coach Brett Kanther said. "We always look to get him the ball and see if he's on. If he is, he's going to keep getting the ball. Liberty really didn't have an answer for him."
After going nearly the game's first four minutes without a field goal, and falling behind 11-2, the Owls needed Carr's offense just to climb back into the game.
Trailing 19-10, Westminster (12-3 overall, 6-0 county) began executing in its half-court set, playing with more intensity on defense and, perhaps most importantly, rebounding. The result was a 10-2 run, capped by a fast-break layup by Dan Simmons (nine points) that got the Owls to within one.
But it wasn't until Carr, the defending Carroll County Player of the Year, came alive near the end of the half that Westminster gained control.
After twice trading three-pointers with Liberty's Justin Cunningham (12 points), Carr hit a jumper from the foul line to put his team ahead, 30-29, with 1:17 left in the half.
He then ended the half with a driving layup and a pair of foul shots - he was 11 of 12 from the line - to extend the lead to four at halftime. The momentum remained after the break, and Westminster eventually extended its lead to as many as 13.
"I went out and just played," said Carr, who entered the night averaging about 15 points. "They've got good de[fense], but there were a lot of gaps in the middle to penetrate."
Despite four players in double figures, led by Andrew Martin (13), the Lions (9-5, 5-1) never regained the lead.
"They put together a good second quarter, and basically that was the difference in the game," Liberty coach Steve Johnson said. "Carr got hot. He was tough to defend tonight. He carried them."
For the Lions, who are still off to one of their best starts in school history, the outcome simply added more motivation for their next meeting with Westminster. That game, scheduled for Feb. 20 in Eldersburg, could decide the county title.
"Everybody's got to come to us," said Johnson. "We've played all the big boys on the road, so everybody's got to come to us now. We've got one more shot at them."