GLENDALE — In the end, Peoria Liberty’s Courtney Christmas couldn’t do everything.
The dangerous sophomore had 19 points, but her ill-advised 3-pointer from beyond the NBA mark with 37.9 seconds left fell harmlessly out of bounds without touching anything.
This all but ensured the defeat of Liberty at the hands of No. 8 Scottsdale Saguaro 41-35 Thursday in the semifinals of the Division II state tournament at Jobing.com Arena.
Saguaro advances to Saturday’s 10 a.m. state championship game against sixth-seeded Tucson Flowing Wells, who upset three-time defending state champion Chandler Seton Catholic earlier Thursday.
None of the other Liberty players could get going as the Saguaro defense smothered them when they got into their half-court set. Still, Saguaro’s inability to break the full-court press/trap strategy kept a feisty Liberty team alive until Saguaro sophomore Jelani Huma started to heat up from beyond the arc.
“I would just pass it to my teammates then they would find me open,” Huma said. “If I’m open, I’ll shoot it.”
Huma and her long ponytail, which extended as far down as her shorts, terrorized the Liberty defense making four 3-pointers en route to a 12-point performance, which led her team. Yet Saguaro’s balance was what made the biggest impact in the game.
Four players for Saguaro scored more than eight points, whereas Christmas was the only Liberty player with more than eight. Saguaro sophomore Kiley Davis was able to shut down Liberty captain senior Amanda Crites, who was almost nonexistent in the paint.
“We just tried to slow down the pace of the game, not try to rush and take our time,” Huma said. “We knew that if we were patient, and ran our offense with good defense it would all come together in the end.”