By KAYLA HANUSCHAK
For the Star Beacon
In the first three possessions of the game, the Liberty Leopards set the standard for the rest of the night in their contest against the Jefferson Falcons.
In the first minute and a half, Liberty converted all 3 times up the floor, foreshadowing what the end result would be. They never lost the lead the entire game. When the final horn sounded, Liberty defeated Jefferson, 58-36.
Liberty took control of the game, winning the tip and rolling from there. They outscored the Falcons 24-14 in the first half. Marcy Dykes led the team in scoring, knocking down 6 field goals and 2 free throws for 14 points. Leah Leshnack hit 6 field goals for 13 points. They are what sparked the fourth quarter takeover. Liberty outscored Jefferson 15-9, earning most of their points from the Falcon’s turnovers.
Ron DeJulio, Liberty’s coach, knows who his go-to players are and had his team set them up to be successful.
“Leah is probably our best player,” DeJulio said. “She’s our highest scoring player. She did a great job of giving it up to Marcy. They were taking her (Leshnack) away quite a bit. Her shot wasn’t falling but she did a great job of giving assists. Marcy is a very athletic post. It’s a mismatch for anyone inside against her.”
Defensively, the Leopards switched their zones sporadically from a 2-3 zone to what looked like a box-and-1 in order to keep the Falcons on their toes.
“They were getting comfortable with what we were doing early on, then we changed it up” DeJulio said. “It just gets them out of rhythm a little bit. We talked about that at pregame and at halftime. We had to step it up defensively because they have some good shooters and good players inside. We really concentrated on defense during this week to win the game.”
Liberty’s strategy worked, causing 8 turnovers in the fourth quarter, 3 of which turned into points for the Leopards.
Jefferson coach Rod Holmes attributes the loss to too many missed shots.
“We didn’t come out and score,” Holmes said. “We couldn’t put the ball in the basket. That first quarter, we went 3-17 from the field. If we don’t hit those shots, they stay in their defense.”
Left-handed guard, Jessica Becker, stepped up in the second half, earning 8 of her 14 points. Emily Smock backed her up sinking 5 shots and a free throw for 11 points for the Falcons.
The Falcon’s man-to-man defense made the Leopards turn the ball over 12 times in the first half, but the missed shots added up.
“If we would have hit the shots that we missed, we would have reacted real well,” Holmes said. “We got good shots, we just didn’t put the ball in the basket. They took one of our scorers away but we have other people that can do it, they just have to do it.”
Although the Falcons were behind the entire game, they never let up. Going into the fourth quarter, Jefferson held Liberty scoreless until the 5 minute mark. In that time period, Jefferson scored 5-straight points.
Also, the Falcons were just 6-16 from the foul line while Liberty went 5-7.
“We tried to run more screens,” Holmes said. “We turned the ball over way too much today. If you don’t get shots, you can’t come back.”
Hanuschak is a freelance writer from Champion.