Friday, Dec. 31, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
What a difference a week makes.
The Liberty High basketball team lost all four of its games last week during the Foothill Holiday Classic, dropping two games by two points and staying close in all four contest in showing they were close to breaking through.
This week, something clicked.
The Patriots made tremendous improvements in advancing to the championship game of the Las Vegas Prep Championships, where they were defeated Thursday 45-42 by Desert Vista of Phoenix at Las Vegas High.
Despite coming up short in the finals, the Patriots can take comfort in they way they played. Competing in the Platinum Division — the tournament’s top bracket in its four-bracket field — Liberty didn’t back down.
“This week, we came in and we started to come together and we started play together,” Liberty coach Pat Welby said. “Guys got into basketball shape and they started to understand their roles and were executing. They executed a little better than us today. That is how the game goes.”
Liberty went 4-1 in the tournament, highlighted by beating Western on Wednesday, 62-57. Western is one of the Sunset Region’s most respected teams.
In a 38-36 victory Tuesday against Carson, senior forward Aaron Navitsky drained a 3-pointer late in the game to give the Patriots the victory.
Navitsky, the Patriots’ top player, nearly hit another game-winner in the finals.
With Liberty trailing 44-42, Navitsky’s 3-pointer with 20 seconds to play rimmed out. After Desert Vista made one of two foul shots, Jeremy Lagasca misfired on a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied the game.
“(Navitsky) had a good look at it. It just didn’t fall,” Welby said.
Still, Navitsky had his way most of the game, connecting on a pair of 3-pointers and frequently driving to the basket for easy opportunities in finishing with a team-high 17 points.
“He’s a dual threat for us, inside and outside,” Welby said. “He’s going to be our leader. We are going to ride him and make sure to put him in the best position possible to help us succeed. He’s a good kid. He’s a hard worker. He is the heart and soul of our team.”
Lagasca was Liberty’s next highest scorer with eight points, and guard Rhandy Tomlinson added seven points.