Ernie Banks never said “Let’s play three” but Liberty faces test

The Liberty girls’ basketball team finished its early week business Wednesday night. The Patriots forced Lake Washington into 31 turnovers and found just enough offense in the second half to dispose of the Kangaroos 63-52 before a home crowd.

The win moves Liberty to 10-3 overall and sets up Friday night’s big clash at home against Bellevue. The KingCo conference matchup is the first big one in what looks to be a three-way race for the title. The Liberty team wants the victory badly. So does first-year head coach Carly Fromdahl. “They want this. They know how much I want this,” Fromdahl said. “We need to get past them (Bellevue) here on our court and then go to Mercer Island and see what we can do.”

The trip to Mercer Island is a week from Friday and is just as crucial as the Bellevue game. Mercer Island came to Liberty December 8 and left with a four-point victory. This Mercer Island contest comes two days after a non-conference game against Newport. It is part of a schedule which does no favors for a Liberty team that loves to press full court for 32 minutes. Heck, it doesn’t do any favors for any type of team.

The game against Lake Washington was the second of back-to-back contests this week that started with a 56-17 blowout of Lindbergh on Tuesday. That was also a non-conference game. Bellevue marks Liberty’s third game this week. It’s not that teams don’t play back-to-back games ever. Many teams play in tournaments where they will play several nights in a row. It just doesn’t happen very often before a big conference game.

Liberty’s starters were rested for much of the game Tuesday though and Lake Washington (3-9) felt it right from the start. The Patriot’s speed in the press defense was too much. At one point In the first quarter, the Kangaroos turned the ball over on seven of eight possessions. They had 18 turnovers in the first half.

It was the poor shooting of Liberty that kept the Kangaroos close. Despite having open shots regularly, Liberty shot just 22.5 percent (9-40) in the first half. Fortunately, three of those that found the basket were 3-pointers by senior guard Danielle Demps. She scored 10 of her team-high 16 points in the first half as Liberty managed a 26-25 lead.

The game opened up in the second half with the teams exchanging baskets until Liberty took control on an 11-0 run and 39-28 lead with 2:50 left in the third quarter. The run was started by Cherelle Demps with a pair of free throws. Alissa Campbell hit a layup, Demps followed with another short jumper and then two free throws. After a Lake Washington time out, Danielle Demps scored and Campbell finished the run with another layup.

Liberty’s lead built to as much as 10 points before Lake Washington whittled it down to three early in the fourth quarter. Free throws sealed the game with Danielle Demps hitting two, Cherelle Demps adding one, and Avery Granberg another.

Lake Washington’s Carly Rataushk was the game’s leading scorer with 20 points. Cherelle Demps had 15 points for Liberty, Samantha Kelderman finished with 10, and Avery Granberg added nine.

Liberty may have played two games already this week but they aren’t done thanks to a challenging schedule. Then again, Liberty has lofty goals. Nothing short of the 2A state tournament will do. And there are back-to-back games at state.