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ANDERSON — While Liberty Christian’s stat sheet was stuffed by the usual suspects Saturday afternoon, it was a senior role player who made the biggest plays of the day against their crosstown rivals.

After pulling her team within one point, Rileigh Graham stole the ensuing inbounds pass and found Mady Rees for the game-winning layup with 20.8 seconds left as Liberty Christian survived a strong comeback bid by Anderson Prep for a 57-56 win.

It was a game in which Liberty Christian (3-4) saw a 12-point third-quarter lead taken away by a pair of Jets freshmen before finding themselves down three in the closing seconds after a Makenzie Armstrong free throw for APA (3-4).

“I was worried there for a second because it looked like we were getting tired there at the end,” LC coach Brandon Hanshew said. “They pulled it out. I’m very proud of them. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

On the next LC possession, junior Shameel Clervrain found Graham on the left wing for a 10-foot jumper to pull Liberty within 56-55. Using what she had learned earlier in the game, she saw an opportunity on the APA inbounds pass as the Jets tried to hold on to the lead.

“They were so frantic, APA was, when they tried to inbound it. I knew she was going to go for it,” Graham said. “I like to lay off so they can pass it, and I can maybe go for the steal. They did it, and there we went.”

Graham delivered the pass to Rees — who led all players with 27 points and 16 rebounds — who hit the layup to give the Lions the lead.

“Me, Mady and Shameel, we all have a real good connection together,” Graham said. “When Mady knocked that down, that was the best feeling ever.”

Clervrain added 12 points and eight rebounds and posted game highs with seven assists and nine steals while Graham finished with eight points and five assists.

“They’re such high-quality kids, and even if we had lost that game, I’d be so proud of them,” Hanshew said. “They’re good leaders on and off the court.”

It did not appear in the third quarter that such a close finish was in the offing.

When APA’s prized 6-foot freshman Alivia Peoples picked up her fourth foul in the third quarter, the Jets were within 32-30. But the Lions took advantage of her absence and went on a 14-2 run, capped by a Clervrain steal and layup for a 44-32 lead.

That prompted APA coach Josh Fathauer to insert Peoples back in the lineup with 2:15 remaining in the third.

“It wasn’t even just her. Kaylynn Orr came in at the same time, and she played well,” Fathauer said.

An Orr basket in the lane followed by a pair of Peoples' scores pulled the Jets within six at the end of the third. Orr opened the fourth with consecutive scores, and it was a two-point game.

After Clervrain scored to end the 10-point run, Peoples went back to work and scored the next two Jets' baskets. It was junior Kanyla Wills who tied the game at 50-50 with a drive to the rim before Rees and Peoples exchanged scores for a 52-52 tie.

Orr then sank a pair of free throws to give APA a 54-52 lead, its first advantage since it held a 16-14 lead in the first quarter.

The Jets had chances to build on the lead, but struggled late from the free-throw line. They converted just 2-of-8 down the stretch, and when Orr and Peoples finally fouled out with just under two minutes remaining, their offensive options were limited.

“That’s what happens when you’re in foul trouble,” Fathauer said.

Peoples finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks while Orr — also a freshman — added 15 points and five rebounds for the Jets, who saw a modest three-game win streak come to an end. Julia Smith chipped in eight points and seven rebounds, and Wills had five assists and five steals.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.

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