Foster no match for Liberty Patriots in tournament opener

As I was waiting for Liberty coach Carly Fromdahl after the game last night, a young Patriots fan leaned over the railing of the bleachers and asked me if I was going to write about the game in my blog. It’s always nice to get further incentive to write. So with a nod to the young lady…

It took the Liberty girls basketball team exactly 121 seconds Wednesday night to determine it was headed to the winner’s bracket of the West Central District III tournament.

Sarah Bliesner started and closed a 13-2 run in the first 2:01 with a 3-pointer and a traditional 3-point play as the Patriots cruised to a 79-31 victory over visiting Foster in its final home game of the season. Liberty (14-7) advances to play a 6 p.m. game against Fife Friday night at Curtis High School in Tacoma.

The first couple of minutes were an indication of what an obviously over-matched Foster team was going to face the rest of the contest. Despite a big lead early – and it only continued to grow – Liberty sustained its tight pressure defense throughout the contest.

There was a reason Liberty did not relax.

Fromdahl had seen her team drop the last two regular contests to Bellevue and Lake Washington. Perhaps those teams were superior foes but the Liberty coach did not like the effort in those losses. The week of practice was a reset for the playoff run, restoring the team’s energy and understanding that losses now means the end of the season.

“It’s going to take all 13 of the kids to play together to get this win,” Fromdahl said after seeing eight of the 13 who played tally points. “Whether you’re on the floor or not you have to be involved. So we had a good, solid week of practice leading up to this game… the team has really come together and meshed and I think you (could) see the chemistry on the floor.”

It was certainly hard to miss. Foster didn’t. And, while games can become uncomfortable when margins get to be large, this is the playoffs and now is not an appropriate time to be turning on and off what makes the team click. Because there is always the chance when it needs to come back on, it won’t happen.

So, when the lead expanded, to 32-15 after one quarter and 49-26 at halftime, there was no respite. Eventually Liberty did roll back its full-court pressure, picking up at half-court but still trapping and forcing Bulldogs turnovers regularly and scoring easy baskets as a result.

Samantha Kelderman led the scoring for Liberty with 16 points off the bench. Bliesner added 15 points, and Cherelle Demps had 14 points. Grace Williams of Foster led all scorers with 21 points before leaving in the third quarter with an ankle injury.

At about 3 minutes into the third quarter, Foster’s Chasity Spady found an opening and hit a short jump shot and the Bulldogs trailed 57-31. It was just the fifth field goal of the night for Foster and it was to be its last. For the last 13 minutes Foster did not score. Not even from the free throw line where it had managed to parade on a regular basis up to that point.

There is a line that Liberty dances with the aggressiveness defensively and there has been a tendency to be whistled for a large number of fouls. It’s a balance that Fromdahl preaches constantly.

“I still want them to play aggressive and hungry. They need to figure out ways to keep themselves on that court and still play hungry,” said Fromdahl as Foster had 26 free throw attempts. “I tell them, if you’re playing solid enough defense and you’re harassing somebody well enough, they are going to turn the ball over.”

Next up for Liberty is Fife that pulled off a mild upset at Kingston 42-39 Wednesday night.