Basketball teams sweep Liberty

A fast start and a strong finish for the boys had the Heritage side of the gymnasium at Liberty going crazy on Tuesday night, but it was a game-long effort by the Patriots' defense which kept them within striking distance, eventually leaving with a 59-51 victory over the Lions in the Bay Valley Athletic League opener for both schools.

"Every game could be like this for us, where we have to grind it out in the fourth quarter," said Heritage coach Carly Perales.

The Patriots (7-8, 1-0) led 12-5 after one quarter, but Liberty was not about to go quietly on its home court. The Lions outscored Heritage 24-10 over the next eight minutes to take a 29-22 lead at the half. Senior Braden Basmagian heated up from the outside for Liberty in the second quarter, hitting four three-pointers and scoring 12 of his team-high 14 points in the quarter.

Kahli Custard was the primary scorer for the Lions (8-7, 0-1) in the third quarter, despite struggling from the free-throw line, where he was 2-for-10 for the night. Custard scored seven of his 12 points in the third quarter, as Liberty pushed its lead into double digits, leading by as many as 13 points and holding a 42-32 advantage headed to the fourth.

The fourth quarter, however, belonged to Heritage senior Sebastian Duran and the Patriots' defense. Heritage outscored Liberty 27-9 in the final quarter, with Duran exploding for 18 of his game-high 27 points in the final eight minutes, including a pair of three-pointers and 10 made free throws. A late technical foul resulted in four straight free throw attempts for Duran, and he made all four in the final minute to seal the victory, seconds after his three from the right wing had extended the lead to four points.

"We've really been encouraging (Sebastian) to take more open looks," Perales said. "At the same time, it was our defense which won the game for us."

Liberty's final lead in the game came in the final two minutes, when the Lions led 49-48. Lamar Murphy, however, drained a pair of free throws to give the Patriots a 50-49 lead, before Duran's big three with 49 seconds left in the game.

On the girls' side, senior post Abigail Muse had another big night, scoring 19 points to go with 14 rebounds, as the Patriots overcame the absence of two starters to pull away in the second half for the 55-39 victory.

Heritage led by just five at halftime, 29-24, but turned up the defensive intensity and fed the ball to Muse to take advantage of their size and skill advantage in the paint.  The Patriots played without usual starters Paige Ziemann and Milan Tuttle; Tuttle had to leave the game with injury in the first few minutes of the game while Ziemann has been sidelined since the previous week.