The Herald Bulletin

March 19, 2014

Rick Teverbaugh: Lions' trip to prominence earned


The Herald Bulletin

---- — To some it might seem like Liberty Christian's transformation into a consistent 1A boys basketball power has happened suddenly.

Some might point out that just three years ago the Lions lost by 50 points to a very, very good Pendleton Heights team. But even at that point, the pieces were coming together.

Liberty Christian played in its first IHSAA tournament in the 2005-06 season. During that season the Lions won just four games, beating the likes of Indiana Deaf School, Kokomo Christian, Morton Memorial and Convenant Christian. Their first sectional game was against Tri-Central, and it was a 74-43 loss.

From that time until two years ago, Liberty had just one winning season. Even two years ago, the team finished the regular season at 10-11. But those numbers don't tell the true story.

Liberty was certainly the exception to former NFL coach Bill Parcells' statement, "You are who your record says you are." Not this time Bill.

The Lions that year played about half of their schedule against teams who were from larger schools. Even the losses against those larger schools were more competitive. In back-to-back road losses in early January, the Lions lost by six against Lapel in overtime and by two against Alexandria.

Very few teams could look at Liberty Christian on the schedule and look forward to an easy victory.

By the time the tournament rolled around, the Lions were ready to pounce. They got two sectional wins for the first tournament title in school history. Going to the regional against traditional small school powerhouse Lafayette Central Catholic, few thought they could win. I was in that group who doubted they could extend the tournament trail any further.

I was wrong.

The Lions won 75-67, but lost later that day in the regional title game to Rockville. Though the players were disappointed in the loss, it was more due to the way they played. They knew it was not the best they could play.

Last year the scene was repeated. This time there were three sectional wins to claim that crown and another regional win, this time against Union. But again the championship game didn't turn out well. The Lions lost a late lead and fell to Lafayette Catholic.

This year there were differences.

"This year we were expected to win," said Liberty Christian assistant coach Mike Carey. "That carried a whole different kind of pressure." It was the first time the Lions had those expectations with which to deal.

They handled it well in the morning contest, putting up a 28-point win over Seton Catholic. At night it appeared for awhile that they were destined to be turned away once again from a regional title. "It was the worst half of basketball offensively in school history," said Lions assistant Ryan Jackson.

But the team rallied for a 65-55 win over Lafayette Central Catholic and that elusive spot in the 1A Final Four. "A lot of teams don't get 50 points in a game against Lafayette," said Carey. "We got that many in a half."

So the Lions now look to go one more step beyond the history of Liberty Christian. Don't count them out. They have worked too hard for too long to get where they are, and they aren't ready to stop now.

Sports Editor Rick Teverbaugh can be reached at: rick.teverbaugh@heraldbulletin.com or 640-4886.