LAFAYETTE, Ind. — From the beginning, one thing was clear: the Liberty Christian contingent at the Lions’ Class 1A semistate game against Marquette Catholic was loud and proud.
As Lions junior Franklin Nunn readied to battle 6-foot-8 Blazers junior Ryan Fazekas for the opening tip, the entire Liberty section joined in a bellowing cheer.
“I. I believe. I believe that. I believe that we will win!”
And they did, even as the final seconds waned and it was apparent Liberty would not reach its state finals goal.
The fans’ support – young, old, Liberty or not – didn’t go unnoticed by the Lions, who ended their season 20-7 after a 72-61 loss to the Blazers.
“It means the world that the community came together and supported us on our run,” Liberty senior DeShon Gibbs said.
The crowd’s energy helped carry the Lions through the first half, and Liberty went into the locker room trailing Marquette Catholic just 35-33 at halftime. When the Lions fell behind quickly in the second half, the fans were still there as loud as ever.
“They had our back the whole game, even when we were down. They just kept screaming and telling us to keep our heads up,” Nunn said.
After the final buzzer sounded, closing a historic season at the school, the closeness of the Liberty community was evident. Consoling hugs were offered as the players left the locker room, and tears flowed freely. For many, it was hard to believe the season was over. For all, pride was the overwhelming emotion.
“We have made history this week,” Liberty Christian principal Amy Conrad said. “The guys have given it their everything. I would not trade one of them for anything.”
The historic nature of the Lions’ first appearance at semistate brought out the school’s alumni, whether it was on Twitter or at the game. Austin Castor, who was part of the Lions’ sectional titles in 2012 and 2013 and finished his senior season last year on crutches, was waiting for his former teammates outside the locker room after the game.