In the biggest local boys basketball game of the season to date, Liberty senior Kyle Ferriera became the hero because he didn't worry that he was almost the goat.
Ferreira shook off a technical foul that gave Stockdale a late lead to hit three crucial shots down the stretch in Liberty's 56-53 victory at home Friday.
"I made a couple of bad decisions," said Ferreira, who scored 9 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, once tying the game and once putting Liberty ahead for good. "I was just trying to put it behind me. I had to forget about it and move on."
In a game between teams tied for the Southwest Yosemite League lead, Liberty led 50-49 when Ferreira stepped out of bounds with the ball. Instead of handing the ball to the referee, Ferreira threw the ball over his head towards the basket. The official immediately called him for a technical foul.
Christian Bayne, who had 14 points, hit both technical free throws to give Stockdale its final lead. But Ferreira scored on a drive with 1:47 left to give the Patriots (18-7, 6-2 SWYL) the lead back, and then he drilled a 3-pointer to make it a four-point game with a minute to play.
"He made a bad play, and he felt so bad about it; he immediately apologized," Liberty coach A.J. Shearon said. "But to his credit, he forgot about it."
Stockdale (17-6, 5-3) closed to within 55-53 and had a chance to tie it because Liberty missed six of seven free throws in the final minute, but Tyus Thompson missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
After Bayne's technical free throws, Stockdale didn't score until a Robbie Purdy bucket with 14 seconds left.
"Liberty played very well and hit high-pressure shots," Stockdale coach Dave Purdy said. "And we didn't shoot well, but again, Liberty plays good defense, too."
Stockdale led most of the way -- by as many as 10 points -- until seldom-used senior Ryan Cheney hit his second 3-pointer of the quarter to put Liberty ahead 50-49 with 3:34 left.
"(Cheney) played JV as a junior, and I thought it might be hard to find him minutes on varsity," Shearon said. "But that to me is exactly what we want our program to be about. He came in and was absolutely fearless and made those shots."
Tucker Eenigenburg led Stockdale with 17 points, and Robbie Purdy had 16. The Mustangs held a 25-22 lead at halftime despite going the entire second quarter without a field goal; instead, they made 12 of 13 free throws in the quarter (and 22 of 26 overall).
But that advantage was muted on the boards. Liberty grabbed 44 rebounds to Stockdale's 29 and scored 15 second-chance points. That included an 8-point, 14-rebound effort from senior Bray Barnes.
"You don't have to be a basketball guy to see that they're 6-(foot)-7, 6-6, 6-5, and we're 6-2, 6-10, 5-11 or whatever," Dave Purdy said. "But you want to try to limit their rebounding as much as you can. If they get that many extra possessions, that can win the game for you."
Each team has two games remaining in SWYL play, with Liberty holding a one-game edge over Stockdale and Centennial (5-3 SWYL), which stormed back to beat Independence 59-58 on Friday.
The Patriots host Independence and Centennial next week, meaning that hard work remains even after a big win.
"Normally we tell them to enjoy a game for five minutes, but tonight we told them to take until midnight," Shearon said. "But it's all for naught if we drop a game next week. This league-title race is still totally up in the air."