Whatever the result on the scoreboard in Liberty Christian's semistate appearance against Marquette Catholic, the Lions' boys basketball team will either look forward to a state title attempt or look back on a season of historic achievement.
When Liberty Christia first was allowed into the IHSAA tournament eight years ago, the results weren't always encouraging. The more established schools were more than willing to make the Lions' baptism one of fire.
Undaunted, the Lions, with head coach Jason Chappell at the helm, moved forward — always learning and always trying to get better, season by season and game by game.
Slowly and steadily, the program began to take bigger and more significant steps. First, Liberty became a good opponent, then a dangerous foe until they reached the current level — a tournament favorite and one of the state's top-ranked teams.
Unlike many of the state's more successful private schools, Liberty Christian's roster isn't populated by players whose families live outside the school's community or moved into the school system during their high school careers. In fact, Liberty has had as many boys basketball players leave the high school program as it has join it.
With the school's success, more fans began to follow the team at home and on the road. Last Saturday night at the Frankfort Regional championship game, the crowd of Liberty's supporters dwarfed that of rival Lafayette Central Catholic, even though the Knights' fans had a much shorter drive to attend.
But the biggest reason the Lions are still a topic in the third week of this tournament run is the players. They have bought into the "team first, me second" theory as well as embraced the concept of defense winning games. When Liberty scored just 15 points in the first half of the regional title game, it was the defense that kept the game from being a blowout at that point.