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March 5, 2013

Lions no longer taken lightly

Liberty Christian seniors proud of program’s turnaround

ANDERSON, Ind. — It doesn’t take a deep background check to discover a time when the Liberty Christian boys basketball team wasn’t as successful as it has been these past two seasons.

In fact, three of the team’s seniors, have experienced the transition firsthand.

Austin Castor, Thatcher Rouse and Remington Emery have played varsity basketball for the Lions for four seasons. Their first two years the team had a combined record of 9-35.

“When I first started the team was regarded as something of a joke,” said Rouse. “Now we’ve developed where we’re kind of a power in 1A.”

“Things have changed big time,” said Castor, who is out for the season with a broken femur. “We have changed our offense. We are more aggressive now. There can’t be a deeper team in 1A. We can go 10 deep on this team.”

Emery backed up the depth comment by saying, “We’re not anxious when we come off the floor because we know that whoever is coming in will have our backs. There is a whole different atmosphere around this program now.”

The Lions started the comeback a year ago, posting a 13-12 record and winning their first sectional title.

“Last year we had the advantage of surprise,” said Emery. “We got a taste of what it was like last year.”

Last year Liberty Christian went to the Frankfort Regional and defeated Lafayette Central Catholic before falling in the title game to Rockville.

The path to a sectional crown was even tougher this season. The Lions, now 19-5, had to win three games instead of two and once again had to survive an overtime in the title clash to get the return trip Saturday to the regional.

“I got nervous when we were down eight in the last five minutes of (regulation),” said Emery. “But when Ben Bowen stepped up and hit a couple of free throws to get us back in it, then it turned the momentum back to us. We knew that this year we’d have targets on our backs.”

Thatcher and Rouse have had their own individual adjustments to make.

“It was interesting as a freshman,” recalled Rouse. “I just walked in and started as a freshman. Last year (junior season) I had a huge adjustment. I went from 15 shots a game to five and was coming off the bench.”

He hopes the experience from both the first two years and the past two seasons will be of benefit.

“I’ve kind of seen it from both sides now,” said Rouse. “Maybe I can help the guys with the experience I’ve had.”

Castor’s adjustment has been one of sitting out the stretch run and the tournament play because of his injury.

“When I first went to the doctor, they didn’t find anything wrong,” said Castor. “But when I got a second opinion, they said the femur was broken. It was the day of the Attucks game (Jan. 25). I remember I was pretty emotional.”

So now he must sit and watch and do other things to help his team.

“The big thing is to be there to cheer them on,” said Castor. “I just want to let them know that I’m there to support them in everything they do. But it’s killing me, as a senior, to not be able to play.”

In the changing face of Liberty Christian basketball, this season has been the payoff for hard work and patience for all three of these seniors.

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