Liberty girls take third at KingCo tournament
February 18, 2014
By Christina Corrales-Toy
The scoreboard painted a bleak picture after the first quarter of the Liberty High School girls basketball team’s Feb. 13 contest against Juanita.
The Patriots managed just two points in the first eight minutes of play, while the Rebels racked up 15.
Shots just weren’t falling for Liberty in the first quarter of the game that determined third place in the KingCo tournament. It was a struggle, senior captain Sierra Carlson admitted, to remain resolute as the misses just accumulated.
“I’ve done that earlier in the season,” she said, “miss a shot and get down on myself, but this time, I knew I couldn’t afford to put my head down this game.”
Carlson powered through the initial adversity to lead her team with 14 points, in an exciting come-from-behind, 44-33 win for the Patriots.
Liberty would go on to outscore Juanita in the three remaining quarters, but it was a thrilling third quarter that sealed the deal for the Patriots.
The Patriots emerged from halftime down 23-12. Juanita began the second half with a quick two points, before Liberty proceeded to take over the game.
The furious comeback began with a pair of Carlson 3-pointers, followed by one from Danielle Demps, who had 10 points in the game.
The Bellevue College gym filled with noise, as Liberty supporters banged on the benches and cheered at the Patriots’ changing momentum.
“It was crazy,” Demps said. “We fed off the crowd’s adrenaline, our friends and families’ adrenaline, and our bench. Our bench really came through tonight.”
The Rebels clearly looked rattled in a third quarter in which they produced only two points. The Liberty shooters’ momentum, combined with an aggressive defense, opened the door for the Patriots to tie the game at 25 apiece about five minutes into the third.
Liberty wouldn’t look back after that, maintaining a lead the rest of the game.
“Everyone’s mind had to shift from the first half to focus on the second half, and that’s what happened,” Demps said.
The win earned the Patriots the KingCo third seed in the SeaKing District tournament. Liberty continued its road to state with a 47-34 win against Seattle Prep on Feb. 15.
That win earned them a showdown with the state’s top-ranked 3A girls basketball team, Cleveland, Feb. 18. The results were not available at press time.
If the girls win, though, they’ll continue their quest to the regional tournament with a Feb. 20 game against West Seattle or KingCo opponent Mercer Island at Bellevue College. If they lose, they would play the loser of that matchup in a loser-out game Feb. 21.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” Carlson said. “Our season’s not over and we still have some work to do.”
Liberty boys season ends at Franklin
Just two days after the Liberty boys basketball season ended with a 49-44 loss to Franklin, the Patriots were right back on the court.
About 15 players that will form the bulk of next year’s team spent their first morning of mid-winter break at the Liberty High School gym working to get better.
“I think it’s indicative of the excitement surrounding our program and where we’ve come in just two short seasons,” coach Omar Parker said. “I’m really encouraged about that. There are so many great signs that point to Liberty basketball going in the right direction.”
Liberty’s season came to a close with an opening-round loss to Franklin, one of the state’s premier high school basketball programs, in the SeaKing District tournament Feb. 15.
Senior Kellen Birdsall, a first team All-KingCo selection, put a cap on his stellar season, with a game-leading 28 points in the loss. Freshman Mike Walters added 11 points, while Austin Mackey had five.
“Nobody else could really muster a basket, and that’s a credit to Franklin’s defense,” Parker said. “They were strong defensively, and so were we. It was a low-scoring game.”
Liberty secured a spot in districts with an opening-round, 72-56 win against Interlake in the KingCo tournament.
The Patriots played Mercer Island close in the next round, leading the Islanders, 31-28, after three quarters of play. Mercer Island came back in the fourth, though, to win, 46-36.
A 61-25 loss to Mount Si earned the Patriots fourth place in the KingCo tournament, and the conference’s fourth seed into districts.
“I think this team exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Parker said. “We wanted our team to be playing its best basketball at the end of the year when playoff time comes about, because that’s when it counts the most. Mission accomplished on that level.”
The future looks bright for Liberty basketball, Parker said, as it loses just four seniors, though one of them is Birdsall, the team’s breakout star this year.
“The expectations for our program have been raised, in large part thanks to those seniors,” he said. “Our culture is one where we are beginning to expect to win.”