Lions ‘ex­cited’ to show im­prove­ment, de­fense

Lib­erty makes an early state­ment by forc­ing 37 turnovers in sea­son opener

Baltimore Sun - - VARSITY - By Pat Stoet­zer

When asked if Lib­erty’s girls bas­ket­ball team fo­cused on fine-tun­ing its de­fense in the off­sea­son, coach Barry Green got se­ri­ous.

“One. Hun­dred. Per­cent,” the Lions’ coach said.

It showed Fri­day af­ter­noon in Lib­erty’s sea­son opener — the Lions had many hands in forc­ing 37 turnovers en route to beat­ing Gerstell 46-30 at Pat­er­akis Ath­letic Cen­ter.

Lib­erty fin­ished 3-21 a year ago. But with a large crop of play­ers re­turn­ing this sea­son, and no se­niors on the roster, Green said the Lions are mo­ti­vated to show they’ve im­proved and will com­pete much more in 2018-19.

“I’m go­ing to go ahead and put it out there now,” Green said about his girls’ in­creased de­fen­sive ef­forts. “That is what has to be dif­fer­ent be­tween us this year go­ing for­ward, then where we’ve been the last two years.”

The Lions col­lected 20 steals and pulled away from Gerstell in the sec­ond half.

Rachel Thiem, a junior for­ward, posted a dou­ble-dou­ble with 21 points and 10 re­bounds. Sopho­more Alex Bull chipped in with 11 points, and junior guard Jor­dan Nas­tos added six. Nas­tos and Bull also had four steals each, while fresh­man Val Thomp­son grabbed five.

Lib­erty led by 10 points at half­time be­fore Gerstell (1-3) tried to mount a come­back. A bas­ket from Haley Polk with 5 min­utes to play in the third quar­ter trimmed the vis­i­tors’ lead to 26-22. But the Fal­cons com­mit­ted nine turnovers on their fi­nal 10 pos­ses­sions of the frame.

Mean­while, the Lions crafted a 10-1 run the rest of the way and led 36-23 af­ter three. Bull sank one of her three 3-point­ers dur­ing the run.

Lib­erty main­tained a com­fort­able lead in the fourth quar­ter and kept the pres­sure on. Gerstell gave up 13 more turnovers in the fi­nal pe­riod, and the Lions leaned on de­fense in cel­e­brat­ing a win in their first game of the new sea­son.

“It’s all we work on,” said Thiem, who earned All-Car­roll County first-team hon­ors a year ago. “That’s all we do.”

Lib­erty uti­lized full-court pres­sure when it could Fri­day, some­thing Thiem said has been a strength in prac­tice. Get­ting a body be­tween the op­pos­ing player and the ball is para­mount to the Lions’ de­fen­sive scheme work­ing, Theim said.

“We have a hawk who watches for the over-the-top pass all the time,” said Thiem, who pointed to Nas­tos and fresh­man guard Kassie O’Hern as the main hawks Fri­day.

Tyra Echevar­ria led Gerstell with 14 points and Kylie Red­man added seven. Fal­cons coach Shane Stem said his team’s turnover to­tal was a bit un­char­ac­ter­is­tic.

“These girls love to com­pete so much that they get revved up,” Stem said. “Tonight was a county game for us. We don’t get to play that many of them. … Tonight we grew, we re­ally did. There was a break­through in our com­pet­i­tive­ness tonight that we’ve been look­ing for.”

Gerstell be­gins its In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion of Mary­land B Con­fer­ence play Mon­day, while Lib­erty gets ready for two home games next week — Walk­ersville on Wed­nes­day and Win­ters Mill next Fri­day in the Lions’ Car­roll County Ath­letic League opener.

They went 1-11 in CCAL play last sea­son, and Thiem said last year’s dis­ap­point­ment is plenty of rea­son to strive for more this win­ter.

“We can’t wait to play in the county,” she said. “We’re so ex­cited to show ev­ery­one the team that we have, and the tal­ent that we have.”


Gerstell's Gabby Man­ning fouls Lib­erty's Jor­dan Nas­tos in the fourth quar­ter of their game in Finks­burg on Fri­day.

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