If Liberty boys basketball coach Jeff Hicks had been waiting for a full 32-minute performance from his team, he got it on Thursday night.
The Patriots stormed out to a 9-1 lead, never trailed and beat Independence 87-52 in the second round of the Ralph Krafve Memorial Tournament at Stockdale.
“We finally put one together with both halves,” Hicks said. “We were playing really hard and playing together.”
The Patriots not only played at a high level from start to finish, but it came from all over the roster.
Kadar Waller led the Patriots with 22 points and six steals, and added five assists. Isaiah Hill added 14 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and tied Waller for a game-high five assists. Javier Gallardo added 13 points and 13 rebounds, seven of them coming on the offensive end leading to second chance shots for the Patriots.
Cameron Burris-Garofalo added 14 points and six rebounds while reserve Kyle Smith was 3-for-4 on 3-pointers, adding nine points and five rebounds.
“When we have all of our guys going like we did tonight, it is something special,” Hicks said. “We were able to score in the post, score outside, then have a guy like Kyle Smith come in with some huge shots. You gotta love it.”
While Hill has received much of the notoriety for the Patriots (8-2), Waller, also a junior like Hill, has become the cornerstone for Liberty as point guard and a shutdown defender.
“He’s finding his spots and getting his teammates involved,” Hicks said. “He is playing extremely hard. Defensively, that’s where you really see the difference in Kadar, when he is locking in and locking down.”
Waller said that with transfers like Gallardo (Chavez) and Burris-Garofalo (Stockdale) getting into rhythm, the team's confidence improves with each game.
“I felt that my confidence has always been there,” Waller said. “I wanted to see what everyone could do so I can get Cameron and Javi comfortable and play our regular game from there.”
Waller also felt that it’s an indication of what could come for the Patriots, who finished the game on a 37-12 run.
“It was a big win,” Waller said. “We will build off this and just keep the gas going and keep our foot on the pedal.”
Liberty will conclude the round-robin play at 6 p.m. against Delano while Independence, which was led by a 14-point performance by Lance Henderson, will play Stockdale at 4:30.
The championship game of the tournament is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday at East High.