When Liberty junior Reece Frizzell reached the Blue Jays’ bench for the final time Thursday night, he leaned back and stretched his arms over the neighboring chairs. Back in the place he started the Class 5, District 15 semifinal game against Winnetonka, Frizzell appeared relaxed, comfortable and content.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Truth is, he exhibited all of those qualities — and so much more — while on the floor.
Playing the sixth-man role, a calm and collected Frizzell scored 11 points in the final eight-plus minutes to help Liberty hold off a Winnetonka rally and escape with a 51-39 victory inside the Blue Jays’ home gym.
Liberty will move on to play Fort Osage at 8 p.m. tonight in the Class 5, District 15 championship game. Fort Osage, the district’s second seed, defeated William Chrisman 67-44 on Thursday.
“My job is to do whatever my team needs to me to,” Frizzell said. “When you come off the bench, sometimes you have to change your role. Everyone on this team does a great job of doing exactly what they need to be doing.”
Well, in the second half maybe.
The first half wasn’t well-executed. Liberty led 18-13 after a first half that featured two teams playing hard defensively but inconsistent offensively. Neither team shot the ball well.
The result left an electric crowd at Liberty High School with little to embrace.
Liberty managed only 11 points in the opening 15 minutes before Brady Newland buried a deep three-pointer to give his team a one-point lead. The floodgates opened from there, and the Blue Jays began the second half on a 12-2 run ignited by guard Brandyn Moultrie, who scored 10 points in the game.
The Blue Jays, 19-7, led for the remainder of the night.
“We always really struggle in the first and second quarter, and we can’t figure out why,” Frizzell said. “I don’t know what it is about the second half, but we came out ready to win the ballgame. I don’t know if it’s (coach Roger) Stirtz chewing our butts in the locker room, but we find a way to get it done in the third and fourth quarter.”
Frizzell, a 6-foot-6 post player, was the leader of the pack after the break. He banked in a leaner at the third-quarter buzzer to expand the margin to seven entering the final eight minutes, and then he added nine more points in the fourth quarter, all part of a 13-point outing that the top-seeded Blue Jays desperately needed after a Winnetonka rally.
Winnetonka, 16-10, trailed by 15 points after Liberty’s run in the third quarter but responded with a quick 11-1 run and eventually cut the margin to two points in the third quarter with a comeback effort led by guard Julious Sabastiano, who scored all 10 of his points after halftime, and center Bennie Curtis, who also scored 10.
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