Warren County ends Liberty’s girls basketball win streak at 29
Saturday, Jan. 12
--Times-Democrat Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
It took 30 attempts, but an Evergreen District girls basketball team finally beat the Liberty Eagles.
The Warren County Wildcats defeated Liberty, 41-27, Friday at home in Front Royal, ending the Eagles’ district winning streak at 29 games. That streak began when the district formed in 2009, so no Evergreen team had ever previously beaten Liberty, which won three-consecutive regular season and tournament championships.
“Beating them is huge for us. It helps our girls’ confidence,” said Warren County assistant coach Melissa Furr, who helped fill in for head coach John Kelly after he was ejected from the Wildcats’ previous game Tuesday. “They were the team to beat in our district.”
Warren County took sole possession of first place in the Evergreen with a 2-0 record (6-6 overall), while the Eagles fell to 2-1 in the district and 6-8 overall.
“It is sad that we lost,” Eagles junior Kiana Smith said of ending the streak, “but we just have to come back and work harder and improve on what we messed up.”
The Wildcats actually also ended a second streak by beating Liberty. Warren County had lost 16 consecutive games to the Eagles since the 2003-04 season, and Furr said the Wildcats had never beaten Liberty prior to that season.
While Liberty will likely still contend for the district championship, Warren County is now in a driver’s seat that the Eagles have kept warm the past three years.
“We thought from Day 1” it was possible to win the district title, Furr said. “They work so well together and their energy is” great.
The Wildcats and Eagles will meet again Feb. 1 in Bealeton for a game that could determine the Evergreen champion.
“Now we know what to expect next time we play them,” Smith said. “I think we’re still capable” of winning the district.
To accomplish that, Liberty will need to improve against zone defenses. The Wildcats played a 3-2 zone Friday that seemed to suck the energy out of the Eagles and relegated them to shooting jump shots.
“We never went against a zone quite as good as their’s,” Smith said. “This was a particularly rough game. … It’s just something we’ve got to get used to.”
The zone specifically limited Smith’s effectiveness inside. The junior center rarely touched the ball on offense with the Wildcats crowding around her in the lane.
“Pretty effective,” Warren County assistant coach Shelby Hayak said. “She’s a good player. We shut her down.”
Smith did not score in the first half and had only one rebound at halftime. Without her inside presence, the Eagles were forced to shoot from the outside and they made only 7 of 36 field goal attempts (19 percent).
“We kind of left the top open because we knew they weren’t going to shoot from there,” Furr said. “We had our wings looking for the shooters on the sides. … We knew we had to pack it in because they’re pretty tall.”
The Eagles’ height advantage didn’t translate into a rebounds, though. The Wildcats out-rebounded Liberty 42-29 and fueled much of their offense with 18 offensive boards.
“Our posts are small, but they’re hungry,” Furr said. “They want the ball.”
“That’s one of the things we stress with our girls, is to box out, push back and get the boards,” Hayak said.
Jordyn Beckner led Warren County with 10 rebounds, while Alyson Fox had eight and Vanessa Calevro had five. Smith led Liberty with seven rebounds and nine blocks, but scored only three points.
“She’s got to be more aggressive for us,” Liberty coach Ashton Mitchell said. “We saw some glimpses of it [in the second half], but it has to be all four quarters.”
Lizzy Berger added six rebounds, three steals and four points for Liberty, while India Turner had five points, five rebounds and three blocks.
Alesha Adams led the Wildcats with 14 points – followed by Beckner and Alyssa Pauley with six each – before leaving with an ankle injury early in the fourth quarter. By then, however, Warren County already led 34-20.
Liberty led 13-12 midway through the second quarter, but then the Wildcats went on a 22-4 run to take a 34-17 lead by the end of the third quarter. Already trailing 19-13 at halftime, the Eagles started the second half with a turnover on each of their first five possessions.
“We have some real scorers on our team. We just didn’t set things up properly, got a little nervous, threw the ball away,” Mitchell said. “We’re leaning patience still. We’re a young group.”
Liberty finished the game with 25 turnovers as Autumn Troxell had four steals, and Adams and Callie Green had three each.
Ashley Lane made four of Liberty’s seven field goals and led the Eagles with nine points. Only a freshman, she gave Liberty’s offense the little life it had from the point guard position.
“She’s got great court vision and really looks to create things out of the offense,” Mitchell said. “She’s very smart. She’s been around basketball for a long time and she’s going to be a real threat.”
Unfortunately, she can’t revive the Eagles’ district winning streak.