Liberty jumped out to an 11-point lead 3 minutes into its first-round Cardinal Division game against William Chrisman on the dazzling shooting of junior guard Jalen Lewis.
Lewis hit three NBA-range three-pointers and a midrange jumper, and William Chrisman never fully recovered. Lewis’ hot start carried Liberty to a 59-43 victory Wednesday evening at the Mabee Center in the 37th William Jewell Holiday Classic high school basketball tournament.
“It is definitely a confidence booster for the rest of the game,” said Lewis, who finished with 24 points. “You can use it for the whole game to keep yourself going.”
Liberty, 8-0, has a quick turnaround. The Blue Jays will play at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the semifinals. After a 10-day layoff between games, Liberty is ready for three games in three days.
Lewis opened the game with consecutive three-pointers, giving Liberty a quick 6-0 lead. In a blink of an eye, the Blue Jays’ lead ballooned to 13-2, and then William Chrisman coach Don Cameron told sophomore Kelvyn Mason to guard Lewis. Mason was up to the challenge.
“He did really good,” Lewis said. “No. 25 (Mason) is super-athletic and super-strong.”
With Lewis slowed down, the Bears clawed their way back into the game, getting scoring help from senior Connor Ruch. By the time the first quarter ended, William Chrisman trailed only 15-12.
“They (Bears) played well,” Liberty coach Roger Stirtz said. “I’ve known coach Cameron for years. He is a great coach. We knew they were going to play us well and they did.
“It has been 10 days since we played and I think it showed a little bit, but it got better as the game went on.”
Liberty started the second quarter showing it is more than a one-man show, scoring the next five points for a 20-12 lead. The Blue Jays’ advantage slowly expanded to 29-17. Five points from Mason at the close of the second quarter pulled William Chrisman within seven at 29-22. Mason finished with 15 points.
The third quarter had a similar start. Lewis hit a couple of long-range three-pointers. His second one gave Liberty a 37-24 lead.
“My teammates found ways to get me the ball,” said Lewis, who went 6 for 8 on three-pointers. “Coach Stirtz did a great job setting me up for plays. I had to play through contact and just do the things I have been learning from the coaching staff.”
William Chrisman spent the rest of the third quarter trying to reduce its deficit. The Bears succeeded, closing to 45-39 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
A basket by senior Clayton Adams followed by a three-pointer from Lewis ignited Liberty on an 11-0 run that pushed the Blue Jays’ lead to 56-39.
“When they cut it to six early in the fourth quarter, I thought Clayton’s shot at the elbow was big,” Stirtz said. “I thought Brock’s (Matson) three and what we did in transition was good. I thought Robert (Rawie) did a good job of getting his feet in the paint to make some plays.”
Grandview 66, Truman 38
Junior Jordan Lathon helped stake the Bulldogs to an early 8-3 lead, and he and the Bulldogs never slowed down.
Lathon finished with 20 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes.
Sophomore Zion Piper pulled down 12 rebounds for Truman.
St. Joseph Central 65, Raymore-Peculiar 58 OT
St. Joseph Central scored the first five points in overtime to pull off a win in a game filled with momentum swings and great shooting performances from Central senior Matt Austin and Ray-Pec junior Wesley McCullough.
Austin finished with 29 points, going 10 for 17 from the field. McCullough scored 22 points, going 8 for 11 from the field.
Winnetonka 63, Fort Osage 62
Winnetonka outscored Fort Osage 18-9 in the fourth quarter and pulled out a one-point victory.
Bol Tong led Winnetonka with 16 points and Darius Campbell added 13.
Winnetonka will play Liberty North 12:30 Friday in a Patterson Division fifth-place game.
North Kansas City 79, Lee’s Summit 75
Lee’s Summit fell just short in its comeback attempt from a 66-52 deficit midway through the fourth quarter.
A three-pointer by Lee’s Summit guard Kevin Hangust with 3.8 seconds left cut North Kansas City’s lead to two points. One second later, TJ Babikir put the game away for North Kansas City by making two free throws.
Liberty North 71, East 29
Liberty North made 14 of 16 shots from the field in the second half for 87.5 percent and shot 68.3 percent for the game.
Tyson Cathy made all seven of his shot attempts and finished with a game-high 14 points.
Rockhurst 82, Smithville 50
Rockhurst scored 27 points in the first quarter and sailed to an easy win.
Chris Teahan led the Hawklets with 21 points. He also pulled down six rebounds.
Rockhurst will play Lincoln Prep 2 p.m. Friday in a Nelson Division fifth-place game.
Lincoln Prep 54, Kearney 40
Keion Fletcher went 6 for 9 from the field and scored 14 points, helping Lincoln Prep to a double-digit win.
Senior Steve Dudley added 15 points and six rebounds for the Tigers.
Lincoln Prep had six blocks in its victory.