By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Improvement is always a goal for any aspiring athletic program.
The Liberty Christian boys basketball team (19-5) is no different.
When the Lions travel to the Frankfort Regional on Saturday, their goal will be to go one better than last year. In 2012, the Lions defeated Lafayette Central Catholic in the morning contest and then lost to Rockville in the title game at night.
The first part of that scenario would be all right to repeat this year, but there are two parts to the Saturday experience if Liberty Christian has anything to say about it.
The Lions will tipoff at 10 a.m. against the Union Rockets, a team they defeated 75-64 on Dec. 18 on the road.
When asked what he expects from Union County (17-5) this time around, Liberty coach Jason Chappell quickly got to the point. “I’m not really worried about what Union is going to do,” he said. “I’m just concerned that we play the way we’re capable of playing.”
But he did offer an idea of what his players must do well in order for them to keep playing past Saturday.
“I think, at this time of year especially, the most important thing is rebounding,” said Chappell. “A defensive possession isn’t finished until the defense possesses the rebound.”
So is that possible or even likely against the Rockets?
“If we choose to have all five kids rebound, we can outrebound any team,” said Chappell. “But if we take off and leave one or two guys to do it, then it will be a problem.”
Sophomore Chris Nunn and junior Preston Quinn lead the Lions in scoring. Nunn has a 15-point average and Quinn is at 13.8. Liberty has five more players who average 4.5 points or more per contest. Literally anyone on the team’s tournament roster could be called upon at any time.
That depth has both positives and negatives.
“The challenge is that I want to keep everyone involved and invested in what we’re doing,” said Chappell. “We have a pretty deep bullpen. If someone has an off night, we can bring in someone.”
There’s another strength about this year’s team that could serve the Lions well on Saturday.
“This team plays really well defensively,” said Nunn. “That is, I think, one of the way we’ve improved.”
A year ago, the team was getting ready for this same trip. It is hoped that experience will be of benefit on the return trip.
“I think it will have a calming effect on us,” said Nunn. “I think we’ll be able to just go out and play like we can.”
“We looked at the film (of the regional title game against Rockville from a year ago) and we know that we don’t ever want to feel that way again,” said Chappell. “We want to be a power in 1A. We’ve had some good players in the past, but we’ve never put the pieces together like we have this year. These kids are helping to change the culture of Liberty Christian basketball.”
The next step in that progression is Saturday’s regional.