In a game that had seven lead changes in the third quarter, the three-pointer by Liberty junior Max Graham at the buzzer sent the Blue Jays into the fourth quarter with a four-point lead and all the momentum.
Liberty scored the next four points in the final quarter and used that eight-point cushion to get a much-needed 56-43 victory over Kearney on Friday night in a Patterson Division first-round game in the 35th William Jewell Holiday Classic Basketball tournament.
“You saw what happened in the fourth quarter,” Liberty senior Matt Alvey said of Graham’s three-pointer. “It set the momentum and made it a two-possession game. It went on from there.”
It was the second victory of the season for the Blue Jays, who will play undefeated Blue Springs at 9 p.m. Monday at the Mabee Center.
“This win was huge,” said Alvey, who finished with a game-high 14 points. “We had a lot of games this season that we have been right in and we let slip away. To come together in the fourth quarter and have a great team game was big. It puts us where we want to be going.”
Liberty was in a bit of trouble late in the second quarter. The Blue Jays trailed 23-18 but scored the last five points and went into halftime tied 23-23.
The Blue Jays came out strong in the third quarter and took a 30-25 lead. Kearney fought back and scored the next six points for a 31-30 lead.
The two teams traded leads until Liberty went up for good at 37-36 on a basket by junior Mason Stirtz, and then Graham’s dagger sent the Blue Jays into the final quarter ahead 40-36.
“I was having a rough game from the three-point line,” Graham said. “I received a great pass from my teammate. He really set me up for that one. I was happy I stepped up and made it.”
Baskets by junior Craig Straws and Alvey to start the fourth quarter solidified Liberty’s advantage. Midway through the fourth quarter, Liberty built its lead to 48-38 on a basket by Straws. The double-digit lead was too much for Kearney to overcome.
Rockhurst 68, William Chrisman 51
Rockhurst scored the first 12 points and led by double digits for all but a few seconds in its win over William Chrisman in a Patterson Division first-round game.
The Hawklets, 4-4, will play Raytown at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the semifinals.
The Bears broke the 12-0 run with a three-pointer. Rockhurst, though, scored the next seven points for a 19-3 lead.
“We came off a pretty heartbreaking loss to Blue Springs Tuesday night,” Rockhurst coach Pete Campbell said. “We were disappointed in the outcome, so we came focused and ready to go. I thought everybody played with great energy and good attitude. Those are the two things we can control.”
Despite the huge deficit, William Chrisman kept playing hard and closed to 32-22.
A flurry of three-pointers late in the second quarter by the Hawklets sent them into halftime with a 45-22 lead.
Rockhurst made five three-pointers in the first half, three of which came in the last 90 seconds.
Senior Lance Boehm had the hottest hand for Rockhurst, making all five of his field goal attempts. He finished with a team-high 14 points, and senior Adam Bowers added 10.
William Chrisman started the third quarter with an 11-0 run and closed to 45-33. But the Bears never could get the deficit below 11.
“Sometimes when you jump to a big lead, you think it is going to come easy,” Campbell said. “I reminded at halftime you got to keep working hard. But sometimes as young men, that is hard to do. We will learn from it, move on and be better the next time.”
Raytown 58, St. Joseph Central 34
Raytown went into halftime with an eight-point lead and then scored the first 11 points of the third quarter to put the game away against St. Joseph Central.
The victory by Raytown puts the Blue Jays in a Patterson Division semifinal, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Mabee Center.
It was an impressive performance in the third quarter by Raytown, which did not play like a team searching for its first win of the season. The Blue Jays held St. Joseph Central to one free throw until the Indians made a three-pointer with 5 seconds left in the third quarter.
Raytown, now 1-5, entered the final quarter with a comfortable 40-25 lead.
Raytown coach Cody Buford said the victory could spark his team to better results.
“We have to clean up a lot of things,” Buford said. “Our next opponent — whether it is Chrisman or Rockhurst — we have to play better than this or it is right back to the same as the first five games. Those games were very tough against tough opponents.”
St. Joseph Central simply couldn’t contend with 6-foot-7 senior Jailen Gill and 6-8 junior Derrick Walker. The two players combined for 27 points and 19 rebounds.
“St. Joseph Central is a little limited with their size, but they played hard and ran their sets hard,” Buford said. “They are well coached. They grinded us out the first half. We struggled just to have that eight-point lead at half.”
Blue Springs 73, Central 42
Blue Springs scored the first eight points and easily beat Central in a Patterson Division first-round game.
The Wildcats, 7-0, will return to action at 9 p.m. Monday against Liberty.
Throughout the first half, Central had a tough time slowing down Blue Springs freshman Daniel Parker. Despite standing 6 feet 3 inches, Parker made his presence felt inside. He went four for five from the field and made all four free throws in the first half. Parker scored 12 points in seven minutes of action, helping the Wildcats take a 39-23 lead into halftime.
“This was the first time getting a lot of minutes,” said Parker, who came off the bench and scored a team-high 14 points. “The team makes me better. I like getting out there with this group of guys.”
Junior Korey Wilson scored 13 for Blue Springs and senior Kirk Finley added 12. Senior Cyree Dunnell led Central with 18.