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Felix Adamo/ The Californian

Bray Barnes of Liberty, center goes for the rebound against Jon Moore, left, and Malcolm Johnson of Independence.

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Felix Adamo/ The Californian

Malcolm Johnson of Independence and Liberty's Jacob Martin race for a loose ball in second period action at the Patriot gym.

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Felix Adamo/ The Californian

Liberty forward Bray Barnes gets pressure from Falcons Isaac Clark, right, and Malcolm Johnson underneath the Liberty basket.

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Felix Adamo/ The Californian

Liberty's Bray Barnes goes in for the layup with Malcolm Johnson of Independence coming in from behind.

Stan Davis' team had another big lead, but the Independence boys basketball coach was nervous anyway.

He had just put several substitutes in the game, and this was one rare area where the Falcons had faltered this season.

So when two Independence players swarmed a Liberty player and forced a five-second call and a turnover, Davis pumped his fist like the Falcons had just won the game at the buzzer.

No such dramatics were necessary Thursday in the Falcons' 57-33 victory at Liberty. Independence improved its gaudy record to 22-1 with a suffocating defensive effort from its entire roster.

"Whatever these guys ate today, we're going to find out and keep feeding it to them," Davis said. "I couldn't be much prouder of our effort tonight. It was relentless pressure. Liberty has some real weapons, but we just kept them uncomfortable the entire night."

Isaac Clark scored 15 points and the Falcons (22-1, 4-0 Southwest Yosemite League) used a 20-6 run to end the first half to take firm control.

"It's just about playing defense first," Clark said. "Our intensity was good tonight; we were ready to play."

A Derek Check 3-pointer gave Independence a 28-16 lead late in that run, and Liberty never cut the lead to single digits afterwards. That's what really excited Davis, who saw good work from reserves like Brandon Robinson, Ryan Robinson, Austin Allmon and Stephen Ntui for much of the second half.

"We went deep into our bench, and those guys executed our defense and didn't panic on offense," Davis said. "If we can go that deep into our bench, then wearing teams down even more can become our gameplan."

Liberty (13-7, 2-2) lost its second straight after beating Clovis North in an important Division I interleague matchup on Saturday.

But Patriots coach A.J. Shearon said he wasn't too frustrated after this one.

"We've played them twice and lost by 26 and now 24," he said, "and maybe they're not quite that much better than us, but they're significantly better than not just us, but just about everybody in the city and the section.

"They impose their will. The level of athlete they have and the way they sustain their energy, they get you to play their pace. And that's a really tough matchup for us."

Jake Martin scored 15 to lead Liberty, but the Patriots scored just 71 points in two games this week after losing 41-38 to Stockdale on Tuesday.

"We definitely didn't play well, but it wasn't about us tonight," Shearon said. "It was about them. We would have had to play perfect to win."

Meanwhile, Independence continues its charge to the top seed in Division III -- and possibly beyond.

"I thought we would have a winning record and a good team, but I didn't see anything like this coming," Clark said. "We've just all been working hard.

"I've been thinking about it since the beginning of the season. I want Valley, but I also want to make a run in state."