Liberty nets 'frantic' win at Thunderbird

Liberty nets 'frantic' win at Thunderbird


Liberty nets 'frantic' win at Thunderbird


Both Peoria Liberty and Phoenix Thunderbird like to play chaotically, playing every possession like it’s an emergency.

Liberty liked it a lot more Friday after beating Thunderbird 44-41 on the road to avenge a 10-point loss to Thunderbird on Tuesday.

“We like it frantic,” Liberty coach Odell Berry said. “We’ve got a lot of bodies, we’ve got a lot of legs. We can play a whole game.”

Much of the contest resembled a table tennis match more than a basketball game between two highly-ranked Division II teams. Liberty (11-5) and Thunderbird (18-2) combined for 47 turnovers, including 28 in the first half.

In a particularly telling sequence, a stretch of the first quarter consisted of five Thunderbird turnovers, four Liberty giveaways and one made basket.

Usually, Thunderbird is comfortable in a game like that. In putting together a 14-game win streak entering the game against Liberty, Thunderbird had edged several potential playoff teams. It topped Phoenix Arcadia 34-30 right after downing Scottsdale Saguaro 48-47.

But Liberty, a team averaging nearly 23 steals a game, excels in those types of battles. too.

“You’re going to win those games if you take care of the basketball and keep your turnovers down and don’t give the other team more opportunities,” Thunderbird coach Barry Ringel said. “And that didn’t happen tonight.”

Fittingly, the game didn’t come down the last shot, but the last steal. Liberty led 43-41 with 4.8 seconds as Thunderbird tried to work for a final shot. But Liberty guard Bri Croteau intercepted a pass at the top of Liberty’s zone defense — Thunderbird’s blind spot all night — and was immediately fouled by Thunderbird point guard Ozahria Fisher. That put Croteau at the line to shoot the double bonus, where she made one of two.

Fisher’s last-ditch heave hit the backboard about a foot too far to the right.

“Their pressure got to us a little bit,” Ringel said. “We didn’t execute the way we did three days ago.”

Liberty sophomore Courtney Christmas led all scorers with 18 points. Fisher had 12 for Thunderbird, and Ann Shikles had 13.


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