By ERIC FORTUNE
For the Star Beacon
It had been 28 days since the Jefferson Falcons had felt the joy of a victory.
Ironically enough, the team they last beat just happened to be on the schedule again.
Though this time, it wasn’t nearly as easy as it took some big shots from Sarah Busch late to get the Falcons a victory over the Liberty Leopards, 45-32 in All-American Conference play.
Trailing early, LeeAnn Farr sparked the Falcons (6-11, 2-6) scoring seven of Jefferson’s first nine points of the night en route to a 13-11 lead after one.
“I told her at halftime that was the hardest I’d seen her play all year,” Jefferson coach Rod Holmes said. “When she does that, good things happen.”
Farr’s first half helped combat a lot of opportunities the Leopards (4-12, 2-8) did have as she had 13 of her game-high 19 rebounds in that opening half. She would finish with a double-double as she led the Falcons in scoring with 12.
The Leopards had their fair share of looks at the basket, but couldn’t convert anything in that second quarter as they were 0-from-16 from the field and, with Farr controlling the paint and ensuring no second-chance opportunities, it was rough sledding for Liberty.
“Our defense definitely picked up in the second quarter,” Farr said. “We started talking more and moving our feet. As long as we can help each other, we’re going to do well.
“At our place, we had one really good half to get us going. (The) second half was a little rough. We really pulled together tonight. It was really the opposite of last time.”
Still, the Falcons had their struggles as well in the second-quarter shooting just 25 percent from the floor but were able to do enough to extend their lead out to eight at the half, 24-16.
“I thought in the second quarter we played good defense,” Holmes said. “We went to our our zone defense. (I) thought we played well there.
“They did a few things differently. They went to a triangle two on us today and made others score points against them. It was a nice adjustment. It took a while to counter that.”
Liberty coach Ron DeJulio knew those layups and makable shots were the difference in a game that came down to the team that made less mistakes.
“Absolutely,” DeJulio said. “I told them at halftime, if we would have made those missed layups, we would have been up 10 points. We played really good defense. We just have to make shots.”
The Falcons saw their eight point lead quickly disappear thanks in large part to the Leopards again attacking the paint with a different end result this time around — getting to the free throw line.
The Leopards got it within one at 25-24 in the third quarter after Shamara Golden made both of her free throws. It would be the closest they would get as the Falcons closed the quarter with a 8-2 run with Lindsey Becker’s 3 being the catalyst to that run.
“We had teammates step up,” Farr said. “We knew there were open spots to shoot. We just needed to hit those shots.”
The win was a much needed relief to Holmes whose team has 11 losses, but six of which came by a combined 19 points.
So when the Leopards had two quick buckets to get it back within a one possession game at 33-30, he got responses from Sarah Busch as she hit those big 3s to extend the lead out to 42-30 midway through the final quarter. She finished with 11 points.
“Our losses are all close games,” Holmes said. “We’re getting close. We just have to break through and win a few and get it going. Hopefully, we start that with tonight’s win.”
Fortune is a freelance writer from McDonald.