By BRANDON JUDEH
For the Star Beacon
Coming into Friday night’s game, both Jefferson and Liberty were missing key assets to their inside game.
Liberty was without 6-foot-5 center David Hight and 6-2 forward Tyler Evans; Jefferson was missing its 6-7 big man, David Chase.
Each team overcame their absence by fine-tuning its game plan, but Liberty was able to outlast the Falcons, 63-55.
It was a physical, gritty game from start to finish as both teams looked to find their footing and the third quarter proved to the turning point for both teams.
Jefferson (4-7, 2-4 AAC) took their largest lead of the game by going up by four points late in the third period, but the Leopards (6-5, 4-0 AAC) answered back in a big way.
Liberty finished the quarter on an 8-2 run that leaked over into the fourth, when all was said and done, the Leopards made it a 16-2 run and took a 10-point lead midway through the fourth.
“We got points in different ways during that run, some were in transition, some off of offensive rebounds and some through good offense,” Liberty coach Dan Bubon said.
The Leopards took over the game thanks to dominance on the boards, out-rebounding the Falcons, 38-26.
“They had a ton of second-chance shots, we didn’t do a good job on the glass,” Falcons coach Jeremy Huber said. “We had some good looks, but the shots we were hitting in the first half weren’t falling in the second half.”
Jefferson had a hard time establishing an identity on offense in the second half, especifically in the fourth quarter as it found itself behind by 10.
The Falcons relied heavily on the 3-point shot, mostly because of Chase being out with a broken right hand, on which he had successful surgery Thursday.
“Missing David (Chase) hurts... we run a lot of our offense through him and he could have helped us out a lot on the glass tonight, especially on offensive rebounds,” Huber said. “But we have other guys that our capable of doing it, we just need to box out better.”
One of the guys stepping up for the Falcons was freshman Jacob Adams, who grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
Liberty found itself in a similar situation with having two of its big men out, but the Leopards’ Cameron Clark stepped up in a big way.
Clark scored 14 points and grabbed eight boards, doing most of the damage in the second half.
“I knew I needed to step up and get some rebounds in the paint and we were able to get some offensive rebounds and extend the score,” Clark said.
Jefferson’s Troy Bloom led the way with five 3-pointers and 17 points. Brett Powers added 12, while Lucas Hitchcock chipped in with 11.
The Leopards had four double-digit scorers, Darrien Underwood had 12, Asim Pleas Jr. chipped in with 11 and Dan Markulin had a team high 15 points and 12 boards.
Judeh is a freelance writer from Lake Milton.