By Bill Cross
For the Herald Bulletin
---- — PARKER CITY — The Liberty Christian Lions continued their pursuit of a third straight sectional title Friday night with an 80-32 win over the Southern Wells Raiders at Monroe Central High School.
Liberty started a little slowly, and coach Jason Chappell attributed it to the team being a little too wound up early.
“We were too excited at the beginning of the game,” Chappell said of the Lions, who missed several close shots early. “But as the game went on, we settled in and relaxed.”
That relaxation cost the Raiders dearly. Southern Wells led 9-6 after a basket by Keaton Coleman, but Liberty went on a 24-0 run that spanned the final four minutes of the first quarter and about half of the second. The Raiders would not score again until Brad Woodard’s jumper made it 30-11 Lions. Liberty Christian led 38-16 heading into the locker room at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Lions tightened up again and missed 17 of 21 shots in the quarter. Liberty still held a 48-24 edge as their defense gave Southern Wells fits. Ben Bowen and Preston Quinn provided the Lions’ final four points of the quarter, igniting a 21-2 run that finished off the Raiders.
“I don’t think we could have shot the ball any more poorly,” Chappell said. “Our defense was the key, and defense is going to win ball games.”
The Lions defense forced 23 Southern Wells turnovers, and the Raiders shot just 21 percent (10-47) from the field.
In the fourth, the Lions bench came alive as the lead grew in the final minutes. It was a total team effort as the bench kept the pressure on the Raiders. As the final seconds ticked off of the clock, reserve guard Jordan Baker scored the final points of the game and the Liberty cheering section erupted.
“Jordan is like the heartbeat of our team,” said Chappell. “It epitomizes what we are about. We are about team. Nobody cares who gets the glory.”
That attitude has led Liberty Christian (17-6) to the cusp of their third straight sectional title. For the game, Franklin Nunn led the way with 17 points to go along with 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. Chris Nunn added 10, while Bowen, Isaiah Tufts and DeShon Gibbs finished with nine points apiece. Liberty Christian outrebounded the Raiders 44-27 and held a 19-9 edge in assists. The Lions finished the night 32-of-73 (44 percent) from the field and made 11 of 17 free-throw attempts.
The Raiders, who were led by Coleman’s eight points, finish the season 4-16.
The win sets up a rematch with host Monroe Central. The Lions defeated the Golden Bears 54-49 in the semifinals last season and 94-90 in overtime to win the title two years ago.
“Every time we play them, it’s a barnburner,” Chappell said. “It’s what you want in a championship game.”
Tip time is scheduled for 7:30 at Monroe Central High School.