The nerves were there for the players, but the one person in the Liberty gym with the most might have been head coach Matt Bhone.
Just three weeks into his first varsity head coaching position, Bhone’s nerves quickly dissipated as senior standout Isaiah Hill hit five 3-pointers in the first half as the Patriots beat visiting Clovis-Buchanan 82-53 in the home opener.
“This is my first trip at the varsity level. There was a lot of nerves and a lot of anxiety,” Bhone said. “But it was good anxiety. We’ve had a good three weeks of practice. These kids have really come in and worked their butts off for us. I am super excited. We will have a good shot at a lot of people in town.”
Hill scored 20 of his game-high 35 points in the first half where 10 different Patriots (1-1) players scored before intermission.
“It can’t be just me scoring. It’s got to be the whole team,” Hill said. “It’s a team sport. That’s the only way we are going to win. It really made me happy that everyone got on the board.”
Jackson Campbell added 17 for the Patriots.
“Jackson in double-figures, that’s big,” Hill said. “He played great. The whole team did.”
Tyler Smith hit a 3-pointer on the opening possession and then Hill scored the next eight for Liberty on two from long range and a layup as the Patriots led 24-8 late in the first quarter.
“Isaiah is a super special player,” Bhone said. “It makes it really easy when he is hitting. Then everyone else gets involved because of him. It’s tough to defend when you’ve got 10 guys that are scoring like that. He did a great job distributing. It was a great effort from him and the rest of the guys tonight.”
Liberty went into the half with a 53-22 lead after Lukas Kim hit a 3 in the waning seconds of the second quarter.
Buchanan (1-1) made a run in the third as Karan Gill scored 10 of his team-high 14 points in the third as the Bears cut the once 33-point lead to 62-44.
But Hill came out in the fourth quarter with nine of the first 11 points for Liberty and the Patriots held off the Bears from there.
“The first home game. Everyone came out. It was a great turnout,” Hill said. “We had to put on a show for the hometown and the school. I hope they come back after we went out there and took care of business.”
Hill scored 31 in the 77-61 season-opening loss on the road at Clovis East on Saturday. But knowing this was his final home opener before he heads off to Tulsa next season, Hill knew there was something more in the Patriots.
“It was a little bit of everything,” Hill said. “This is the last time I will be out here this year before I go to Tulsa. I just have to give it everything I’ve got. Hopefully lead my team and we come together. We can be as good as we want to be. We could go deep. We have all of the pieces.”