By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Each time the Liberty Christian boys basketball team breaks down a huddle, the Lions say the word "family" in unison.
It's much more than a hollow affirmation. It's one of the keys to the first-time regional champions' success.
"We don't have ego problems on this team," senior DeShon Gibbs said. "We all have a lot of respect for each other's abilities. If one of us is having a good night, we try to feed off him or give him the ball. It doesn't really matter."
That's the foundation of a strong family, and it's the tie that binds the Lions. It's also a major factor in the team's ability to produce unexpected heroes with alarming regularity.
Gibbs averages just 5.3 points per game, but he's a 47-percent shooter from 3-point range. So when Lafayette Central Catholic twice left him open in the fourth quarter of Saturday's regional championship game at Frankfort, he knocked down a pair of treys that staggered the Knights and finished with 11 points.
Junior Quincey Hyatt scores just 5.5 points per game. But he had 12 in the regional semifinal victory against Seton Catholic on Saturday afternoon and followed that with an unforgettable performance in the final.
Six of Hyatt's eight points came in the third quarter as the Lions rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit. His lone basket in the fourth quarter also came at a critical juncture, and he added five rebounds and three steals.
"Our leading scorer might not get double figures in the next game," assistant coach Ryan Jackson said, explaining the team's depth and versatility. "I'm sure (Gibbs and Hyatt) came out of nowhere to Lafayette Catholic."
Just as senior Ben Bowen and junior Isaiah Tufts had in the afternoon against Seton Catholic.
Bowen had eight points off the bench, and Tufts added six. They were the leaders of a 20-point effort by the Lions' reserves that supplemented a 26-point game by senior point guard Chris Nunn in the 83-55 victory.
When Liberty Christian takes the floor this Saturday against Marquette Catholic at Lafayette Jeff, the heroes could carry completely different names. And few in the Lions' locker room would be surprised.
"You can pull the 12th man off the bench and I've still got confidence in him," Hyatt said. "It doesn't matter who it is. We can all step up to the challenge."
The proof is on the court.
Liberty Christian rallied from double-digit deficits in both the sectional and regional championship games, and it's versatility was repeatedly evident at Frankfort's Case Arena.
Franklin Nunn led the Lions with 14 points in the championship game. But he picked up his third personal foul with a little more than 90 seconds remaining in the third quarter. By the time he returned to the floor midway through the final period, Liberty Christian had turned a four-point deficit into a five-point lead.
Similarly, when the starters got into foul trouble during the semifinal, the bench scored 16 of the team's 18 second-quarter points to keep the Lions comfortably ahead at the half.
Liberty Christian had six different players score in double figures in at least one of the two regional games. Only Franklin Nunn pulled off the feat in both contests, and he needed 11 points in the fourth quarter of the semifinal to perform the trick.
"Coach (Jason Chappell) has worked with us all year, making sure we all work together as a unit," Gibbs said. "On any given night, anybody could step up and have a big game for us. That is definitely to our advantage."
Ultimately, it's all about unity.
When nobody is concerned with who is getting the credit, everybody benefits.
For the Lions, it's not about which five players are on the court at any given moment. It's about how well they can play in concert for the good of the team.
"It's like a fist," Hyatt said. "We talk about it all the time. If we've got all five players together, nobody can stop us."
Complete coverage of Liberty Christian at semistate On social media - Follow @THBSports on Twitter for updates, photos, videos and live coverage of Saturday's game In print Friday: Assistants Mike Carey and Ryan Jackson play key role in Liberty Christian's success Saturday: A preview of the semistate matchup with Marquette Catholic Sunday: Complete coverage of Saturday's game At heraldbulletin.com - Photo galleries - Videos - Stories from the Lions' tourney run