Liberty Union entered Saturday’s game a perfect 5-0, having won their past three games by an average of 23 points. Berne Union didn’t care.
The Rockets scored the first five points of the game and held the lead for much of the first quarter. Although the Lions went on to win 51-35, Liberty Union coach Adam Twiss said the early challenge was good for his team.
“It was a great game for us,” he said. “This is what we need. We need to be able to come back from some adversity and respond that way.”
The Lions (6-0, 4-0) were careless with the basketball early, and Berne Union(5-2, 1-2) took advantage of the missteps, holding an 11-9 lead more than midway through the first. Liberty Union then extended its defensive pressure and reeled off a 10-2 run to close the quarter with a 19-13 lead.
“Berne Union was doing a great job of taking it to us,” Twiss said. “I felt like, at some point, we kind of slowed them down and we were able gain the lead in the first quarter and then keep it throughout the game. It certainly wasn’t easy.”
The Lions’ first points of the second, a play where all five players touched the ball, was indicative of the team’s ball movement. Liberty Union consistently swung the ball around the 3-point line looking for a clean look or an open entry pass, which was a stark improvement over their stagnant first-quarter offense, Twiss said.
Despite the loss, Rockets coach Dwayne Hurst said he was pleased with his team’s consistent effort.
“We were putting pressure on them,” he said. “I’m real happy with our girls and the way we played tonight. We played hard for four quarters.”
Effort aside, Liberty Union was able to extend its lead in the second. The Rockets had scored just four points in the quarter when, with less than 30 seconds to go, Allison Coleman hit two free throws and appeared to give the Rockets some momentum entering halftime. The Lions’ Morgan Kirkbride responded with a three-quarter scourt heave as time expired to give Liberty Union a 37-29 halftime advantage.
Berene Union, however, was not done pushing the Lions.
“It took a little bit out of our sails,” Hurst said. “I’ll give our kids credit, we came out in the third quarter and we came back and made a run. Our kids kept battling and battling.”
A 3-pointer by Allison Coleman and a three-point play by Jessica Grubb on consecutive trips down the floor in the third quarter pulled the Rockets within five, but they never would get any closer. The Lions doubled up Berne Union 12-6 in the fourth.
“We got a little tired in the fourth quarter,” Hurst said. “Some of it was their pressure and some of it was that we spent so much on the defensive end, when we got on offense we started to stand a little bit, and when were standing bad things happen.”
Liberty Union was able to withstand the Rockets’ game-long effort, which Twiss attributed in part to his senior point guard.
“As Morgan (Kirkbride) goes, we go,” he said. “She does a great job of running our offense and she works really hard on trying to get better. Our senior leadership couldn’t be better.”
Kirkbride finished with 14 points, and classmate Taylor Dickson scored a game-high 18 for the Lions. Coleman had 14 to lead Berne Union.
Twiss said the physical game felt closer than the final score.
“They made everything that we did very difficult for us,” he said. “Nothing happened real easy, but it is always good to go on the road and get a win.”