Liberty North led just one time in the second half against Park Hill South on Friday evening in the championship game of the Liberty North Invitational.
By DAVID BOYCE
Special to The Star
It came with 17 seconds remaining on a three-pointer by junior Cale Hanson, and it lifted the Eagles to an improbable 40-38 victory.
“It is a crazy experience,” said Hanson, who finished with six points.
Hanson said he had been thinking about making a shot like that since he was 5 years old. To get himself ready for Friday night’s game, he entered the gym at 7 a.m. Friday morning to work on his shot.
“I have been struggling with my shot the last few games, and I decided that it was time for me to make a change,” Hanson said. “I did what I had to do, and it paid off.”
Park Hill South had a final chance to tie or win the game, but a block by sophomore Michael Hughes with 2 seconds left sealed the victory for the Eagles.
The win lifted Liberty North to 4-2. Park Hill South suffered its first loss and dropped to 4-1.
“We just have complete trust in each other,” Hanson said. “We knew we were in the right spot the whole time. We knew we could pull this off.”
It was the second year in a row that Liberty North had beaten Park Hill South in the championship game of this tournament.
This version was simply amazing. Park Hill South appeared to be in control with a 34-26 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Panthers were patient on offense, got the ball inside and their post players finished.
Liberty North never gave in. The Eagles slowly clawed their way back and closed to 37-35 on a basket by Ian Sanderford. A free throw by Brinkley Jolley pulled the Eagles to within one at 38-37 with 50 seconds left and that set up Hanson’s clutch shot and Hughes’ big-time block.
“He has been a big asset for us all year and he is going to be for the rest of the season,” Hanson said. “I’m glad we have him.”
Midway through the second quarter, Payton Meek broke a 12-12 tie with a three-pointer. Hudson Welty followed with another trey, giving Park Hill South an 18-12 lead.
Those two three-pointers held up for the Panthers, who took a 20-17 lead into halftime.
Liberty North started fast, opening the game with a three-pointer by Matt Richards and then a 15-foot jumper by Sanderford, which gave the Eagles an early 5-0 lead.
Park Hill South scored nine of the next 11 points to take its first lead at 9-7 late in the first quarter. Liberty North never led again in the first half, but managed to tie the game twice.