Patriots post impressive basketball wins

January 3, 2012

By Christina Lords

Liberty’s 8-1 start is best in years

Adele Payant (left), Liberty High School sophomore center, and Hazen High School sophomore forward Gabby Brower chase after a rebound late during the third quarter Dec. 22. By Greg Farrar

The Liberty High School girls basketball team is off to one of its best starts in recent years.

Through Dec. 29, the Patriots had fashioned an 8-1 overall record. In KingCo Conference 3A/2A play, Liberty sat in first place with a 4-0 mark.

Liberty, despite losing all-league players in Danni Sjolander and Halie Ericksen to graduation, is ahead of last year’s pace. The Patriots went 15-10 last season, which saw them reach the 3A Sea-King District Tournament after finishing third in KingCo with a 9-5 record.

The Patriots posted big victories in December against Class 4A Newport, and perennial league powers Bellevue and Juanita. Then, the Patriots savored a decisive 66-39 victory Dec. 22 against neighborhood rival Hazen.

“We’ve been able to finish games off when they’re close, and we’ve had some close ones,” Liberty coach Randy Leifer said. “We shoot the ball well, and we’ve got three returning starters this year that give us an inside presence.”

The Patriots entered the game strong, scoring 23 points in the first quarter, and held the Highlanders to just 10 points in the first half.

“We’ve got a nice mix between our four seniors and our young players,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep improving every game.”

Liberty’s Sierra Carlson, a sophomore guard, came out hot in the first half of the game, knocking down 14 points before halftime. She ended the game with a season-best of 24 points.

Carlson is averaging 9.1 points, 2.3 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game.

Liberty senior center and co-captain Aspen Winegar, who is averaging 14.4 points, 2.3 assists and 5.5 rebounds per contest, contributed 10 points in the Hazen match up. Winegar earned all-KingCo second-team honors last season.

“We’re really young, but I think we’re really deep,” Leifer said. “It helps that we have a lot of people that can play.”

After winning their first seven games of the season, the Patriots suffered their first loss Dec. 28. The Patriots lost to Jackson, 51-35, in the opening round of the KingCo/Wesco Challenge at Juanita High School.

Jackson, one of the strongest WesCo teams, broke open the contest in the third quarter by outscoring Liberty 16-10 to lead 35-26.

Kristin Stoffel, of Jackson, led all players with 18 points. Jackson went to 7-1 for the season.

Alicia Abraham topped Liberty with eight points. Aspen Winegar contributed seven points.

The Patriots bounced back Dec. 29 to beat Cascade, of Everett, 63-35. Liberty shot to a 15-6 first-quarter lead and stayed in front for good. The Patriots polished off Cascade in the fourth quarter, outscoring the WesCo team 20-6.

Winegar scored a game-high 18 points. Delane Agnew and Megan Tsutakawa each had nine points, and Abraham added eight points for the Patriots.

Christina Lords: 392-6434, ext. 239, or Comment at

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