WAITSBURG — The Liberty Christian Patriots marched into Waitsburg Friday night with a chance to secure the girls Southeast B District Southern Division.
W-P was fighting to retain a place in the upper tier of the division after consecutive last-second losses to DeSales and Touchet. But it was the Patriots who had more firepower in the end and W-P suffered yet another last second stunner, 51-46.
LC sprinted to an early 15-7 lead after one quarter as its full-court pressure forced W-P into eight turnovers. But W-P settled down in the second, hit the boards hard (14-6 advantage) and closed to within one, 21-20, at the half.
Increased pressure by LC’s full-court trap led to seven more W-P turnovers in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the third. The Patriots used W-P’s unintended generosity to stake a 27-20 lead by the 5:20 mark.
W-P resumed its board dominance (10-2 advantage) and regained its offensive composure to close to within three, 31-28, at the end of three quarters.
LC suffered a huge blow when leading rebounder and scoring contributor Brooklyn Deatherage fouled out only 30 seconds into the fourth. Three-and-a-half minutes later, the team’s season scoring leader, Hannah Croskrey, also fouled out.
Amazingly, the first three minutes of the fourth saw the Patriots extend their lead to 10 with a 9-2 run. No player was more instrumental in the run than 5-foot-9 guard Kelsey Harding, who scored seven points, including the capping trey from the left wing.
W-P was not done, though, at it got hot from the free-throw line while bucketing layups. W-P hit 4-of-5 free throws along with two field goals for an 8-0 run to close within two, 42-40. The big blow was Taelor Carter’s three-point play at 4:02 that sent Croskrey from the game.
Harding stopped the run at 2:57 with a perfect pair from the charity stripe. W-P’s Amanda Weis responded with a textbook crossover basket to trim the LC lead back to two. But LC’s Hannah Berges potted a putback 10 seconds later to rebuild it to four.
W-P guard Kristin Potter reduced the lead to 44-42 with a baseline drive and reverse layup at 1:44. W-P had the chance to tie it after a defensive stand at the other end, but Potter’s next layup drive rolled off.
The decisive play occurred at 53 seconds, when LC point Katie Ellis drove into W-P center Genesis Pearson, fouling Pearson out of the game. Ellis went to the line for a pair. She made the first, and missed the second. But somehow, Ellis managed to race in close, grab her own miss and put it back to cap an improbable three-point play.
"My bigs did their job — blocked out really well, and I squeezed in there and got the rebound," Ellis said.
But it still wasn’t over, Potter reached the foul line and missed two, after which LC’s Harding, who scored 11 points in the quarter, knocked down a pair of free tosses pushing the lead to seven 49-42.
Potter responded by dribbling between a defender’s legs, then netting an eight-foot jumper from the baseline. W-P fouled immediately, LC missed the one-and-one, and Potter this time took an offensive rebound underneath to bucket a putback and close the game to three, 49-46 with eight ticks left.
W-P again fouled, and LC’s Berges complied with W-P’s wishes by missing the front end of her one-and-one. The rebound went out of bounds to W-P with six seconds remaining.
W-P’s inbounds pass went to Potter, who drove the backcourt baseline to elude LC’s full-court pressure. The pressure worked as Potter stepped on the line and turned the ball back to LC. W-P fouled again and LC’s Berges hit both foul shots to end it 51-46.
"We got a little complacent with the ball in the second half," W-P coach Jerry Baker said. "Sixteen turnovers in the second half is way too many to beat a quality team like that."
"We knew we had the opportunity tonight to wrap up the league title and our girls came ready to play," Liberty Christian coach Steve Dunham said. "It’s really exciting for them. They all played on last year’s team when we finished 4-18. So to go from that to league champion is just very exciting for the team."
"We gave ourselves a chance to win it in the end," Baker said. "The girls know they can beat them. So we just need to get into the playoffs and we’ll get another shot at them."
LC remains undefeated at 9-0 in division, 12-6 overall. LC hosts second place DeSales on Tuesday.
W-P dropped to 9-6 overall, and 3-4 in league. W-P played at Walla Walla Valley Academy Saturday.
LIBERTY CHRISTIAN — Harding 6 6-6 19, Ellis 2 1-4 6, Croskrey 3 0-0 6, Deatherage 2 0-0 4, Berges 7 2-5 16, Koller 0 0-1 0, Perry 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 9-16 51.
WAITSBURG-PRESCOTT — Potter 4 0-2 9, Stringham 0 0-0 0, Carter 3 1-1 7, Hafen 1 2-3 4, Harris 3 0-0 6, Hulce 3 0-2 6, Weis 3 1-4 7, Pearson 2 3-5 7. Totals 19 6-16 46.
Liberty Christian 15 6 10 20 — 51
Waits-Prescott 7 13 8 18 — 46
3-point goals — LC 2 (Harding, Ellis), W-P 1 (Potter). Totals Fouls — LC 18, W-P 15. Fouled out — LC (Deatherage, Croskrey), W-P (Pearson). Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — LC 18 (Deatherage 8), W-P 39 (Weis 9, Pearson 9). Turnovers — LC 13, W-P 29. Assists — LC 3, W-P 5 (Carter 2). Steals — LC 7 (Berges 3), W-P 9 (Potter 3).