Friday, Feb. 18, 2011 | 9:57 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer discuss their way through the Sunrise and Sunset playoff brackets. They disagree on the early rounds, but come to a consensus on who will advance to the state championship.
After cruising to easy victories in most of its games this winter, the Liberty High girls basketball team found itself in an unfamiliar place Friday during the Sunrise Regional championship game.
The Patriots only led Foothill by four points at halftime.
But Liberty turned up the intensity in the second half, outscoring Foothill 20-6 in the third quarter to take a convincing lead and ultimately claim its second straight Sunrise crown with a 52-42 victory.
The win gives Liberty a berth in next week’s four-team large-school classification state tournament at the Orleans Arena.
“We didn’t execute anything that we wanted to in the first half on either side of the ball,” Liberty coach Quintin Lester said. “As soon as we started communicating a little better, our defense was a little more efficient and we got some stops.”
Amanda Delgado, Liberty’s senior guard who will play at the University of Oregon next year, had seven points in the third-quarter domination. Destiny Whitehead and Elena Evans each had four points in the outburst, helping Liberty (26-2) return to the state event.
This winter, however, the Patriots are looking for more than a one-game appearance in the tournament. Last year, they were defeated in the semifinals, struggling after a 10-hour bus ride to Northern Nevada.
“We had intentions to go win, but intention don’t win games,” Lester said. “This year, everybody is a year older. They have a year of the system under their belts, and our pieces are a little better. So, we’ll be prepared.”
Jade Washington, one of Liberty’s senior leaders, said the experience from last year’s run would be beneficial. Liberty’s opponent won’t be determined until Tuesday’s play-in game between Foothill and Bishop Gorman to determine the fourth team at state.
“We already know what to expect,” Washington said. “Last year, I think the (magnitude of state) might have got to us. Now we know we have to do what we have to do to get it done.”
Liberty went a perfect 14-0 in the Southeast Division, typically receiving an opponent’s best performance with hopes of trying to dethrone the regional favorites. That experience could be beneficial next week.
“We knew in the offseason that this is what it was going to be like,” Lester said. “We practice hard. We practice for situations like this. Every practice is geared to be a dog fight because we knew we were going deep into the postseason.”