If finding different ways to win a game was the goal, the Liberty girls basketball team can check off another box following Thursday’s Southern California Regional Division III playoffs game.
Just 48 hours after a dramatic last-second shot that helped the Patriots advance, the team showcased a new method of success, blitzing visiting Buena Park early with an array of backdoor layups, 3-pointers and buckets off turnovers before coasting to a 70-49 victory, the team’s 17th straight win.
“We wanted to come out and leave no doubt on the floor,” Liberty coach Damarius Akins said. “We wanted to earn practice (Friday), it was not going to be given to us, so we wanted to just come out, compete, fight and let everything else take care of itself.”
No. 5 Liberty (22-7)advances to play at top-seeded Rancho Cucamonga-Los Osos at 7 p.m. Saturday in the regional semifinals. The Grizzlies moved past No. 9 Alhambra-Mark Keppel 65-41 on Thursday after defeating Bakersfield Christian 78-50 in Tuesday’s opening round.
“It was big for the program, for the school and for the city,” Akins said. “We wanted to keep staying alive and continue to play. It’s rewarding,” Akins said. “Just knowing the work they put in at the beginning of the season and they’ve been putting in since October. They’ve really been working hard and they deserve it.”
The Patriots Big 3 led the way again, with 6-footers Kaylee Batten, Emma Fredrick and Faith Curry combining for 55 points, with each showcasing nifty footwork around the basket as well as a solid perimeter game. Curry helped send her team into Thursday's game when she scored on a jumper in the final seconds of a 47-45 win over Rialto on Tuesday.
The junior Batten scored a team-high 21 points, including during a key third-quarter stretch with leading scorer Faith Curry on the bench with four fouls.
“It feels good,” Batten said. “We put in the work and we came ready not just to play, but to win tonight.
Batten opened the quarter with a jumper from the free throw line, and followed with three and-one baskets and a pair of free throws to help Liberty regain control following a 7-2 run by the Coyotes (25-8) that had temporarily quieted a vocal pro-Patriot crowd.
“We had a ton of support tonight,” Batten said. “That was super cool. It helps us out a ton, it gives us momentum, motivation and we love all of our supporters.”
Curry and Fredrick worked the two-man game to perfection in the opening quarter, combining for 14 points during a 19-3 run to close out the first quarter. Curry capped the run with a 3-pointer with 5 seconds left in the period to give the Patriots a 23-9 lead.
Liberty continued to increase its lead, with Curry scoring a three-point play off a rebound, and then got another offensive rebound and dribbled to the top of the key where she drained another 3.
Then, after getting a defensive stop, Curry found Fredrick inside for an easy basket to build the lead to 31-13. Frederick finished with 19, with Curry adding 15 before fouling out with 3:34 to play and her team leading 65-41.
Buena Park’s lineup featured four freshmen, who accounted for all 49 of their team’s points. Alana White had a game-high 26 points, with Sydnie Lendsey-Vann adding 11.
“You want to peak at the right time and I think we are,” Akins said. “The girls come into practice, they still practice hard. They’re still buying into what we want to do, they pay attention to what we want to do and they execute a game plan.”