Though Liberty led by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter, the Blue Jays found themselves clinging to a two-point lead Friday with 10.1 seconds on the clock after a pair of baskets by North Kansas City senior guard Aries Washington.
Despite missing two free throws on the next possession, the Liberty girls hung on for a 50-48 home victory against North Kansas City and improved to 5-2.
“We didn’t hit free throws, but we hustled and got the rebound to keep it in our possession the last minute of the game,” Liberty’s Morgan Fleming said. “We’ve gotten a lot better at closing games, not turning it over and relying on our passes.”
The Blue Jays, who shot just 13 for 24 from the line during the game, went six for 11 in the fourth quarter, while the Hornets went nine for 12 to fuel their comeback.
Liberty coach Noah Simpson said he doesn’t think his team would have been able to close out the game even just a few weeks ago.
“They are super-athletic and super-aggressive and we knew it would be tough,” Simpson said. “I thought our kids made mistakes, but bounced back from them, which is different from the beginning of the year because we would have put out head down and made another mistake. We made one and it wasn’t a big deal. Our resilience is getting better.”
Going into the game, Simpson wanted to shut down Washington and the Blue Jays were successful until the final minute, holding her to seven points. Instead, Kianna Lane and Selena Salas led the Hornets with 13 points apiece. Maggie Brooks added 10.
“We know that (Washington) is their best player and, to me, one of the top players in the city so our focus was there,” Simpson said. “We said that if the other kids beat us, they beat us. They came close and hit some big shots, but I think our game plan worked well.”
Fleming led all scorers with 20 points, including seven in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory. Chiarra Franklin was the only other Blue Jay to break double-figures finishing with 11.