Playing on one of the youngest rosters in team history, members of the Liberty girls basketball team have learned to treat every early-season matchup as a learning experience. In that case, the Blue Jays will have plenty to learn after Friday night’s championship in the Liberty North Invitational.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
But at least they’ll be grasping that new information with another win in hand.
A sloppy, low-scoring game turned Liberty’s way after halftime, and the Blue Jays pulled away for a 39-32 victory against St. Joseph Central and won the first-place trophy in the inaugural tournament.
Liberty, which has as many freshmen on the varsity roster as seniors, improved to 5-0.
“We’re very, very young and trying to figure things out,” Liberty coach Noah Simpson said. “This game was all about learning how to play in a pressure situation. Our kids handled it well and finished off the game.”
The learning curve showed in a first half that left much to be desired offensively.
Playing against a St. Joseph Central zone that included twin towers Madison Pfleiderer and Maggie Lawrence in the middle, Liberty settled for outside shots in the opening two quarters but made only two of 11 shots from three-point range.
Each team turned the ball over nine times before halftime, which ended with St. Joseph Central leading 16-15.
But Liberty emerged from the locker room as a different team in the second half. The Blue Jays worked the zone from the inside-out, resulting in layups against the Indians’ sizable front court and better openings on the perimeter.
No player finished in double figures scoring. Liberty senior Shelby Murtha led all scorers with nine points, getting six on second-chance putbacks. Jessica Rawie and Chiarra Franklin each added seven points.
“It was ugly at times, but they found a way to win, and that’s a real good thing with such a young team,” Simpson said. “We didn’t get the shots we wanted (in the first half), but we started attacking the rim and got them in foul trouble. And you saw that paid off.”
Both teams had their fair share of trips to the free-throw line in a tightly called game. St. Joseph Central made 20 of 26 attempts. But the Indians made only four baskets from the field the entire night.
Kylee Williams led St. Joseph Central with eight points.
Liberty escaped despite converting only six of 18 attempts from the line.