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Patterson plays ‘like a champion’ but Liberty falls to Briar Woods boys

Tuesday, Feb. 19 | By Jeff Malmgren
Aaron Patterson scored a game-high 28 points, but Liberty lost to Briar Woods, 69-67, Tuesday. --Photo by Rick Wasser
Aaron Patterson shot the ball like he was playing by himself in the Liberty Eagles' gym Tuesday night. At ease, in the zone and unstoppable.

He must have felt alone at times too.

The senior guard made nearly every shot he attempted, but his teammates struggled. Liberty made only 37 percent of its shots as a team and lost to the Briar Woods Falcons, 69-67, at home in Bealeton during the quarterfinals of the Region II Division 4 tournament.

Patterson made all five of the 3-point attempts he took during the final 4 minutes, 16 seconds of the game. He scored 15 of the Eagles' last 21 points. He made eight 3-pointers in all to score a game-high 28 points.

The Eagles still lost.

"He went out like a champion," Liberty coach Pat Frazer said. But "we weren't the team this year that could rely on three or four people to win. We had to all do it, and that didn't get done tonight."

Liberty, the region's No. 3 seed, finished its season with a 12-13 record, its worst mark since 2008-09. No. 6 Briar Woods (14-10) advanced to play No. 7 Millbrook on Thursday in the semifinals after Millbrook upset No. 2 Sherando, 74-65, Tuesday in the quarterfinals.

Briar Woods appeared en route to a rout against Liberty when it took a 52-40 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Patterson helped make Falcons coach Mike Benson sweat in the closing minute.

Leading 64-54 with less than two minutes remaining, the Falcons missed 8 of 15 free throw attempts as Liberty committed fouls to extend the game.

"We knew they were going to foul us. We didn't know [Patterson] was going to be on fire," Benson said. "He really only hit two open [3-pointers]. The rest of the time our kids had a hand in his face."

Patterson went 3-for-3 on 3-point shots during the final 48 seconds and narrowed the Eagles' deficit to 67-63. He created all three shots directly off the dribble and face-to-face with a defender.

"I just didn't want to lose. I wanted to do whatever I could to help my team," Patterson said. "We kept fighting; never gave up. [But] it doesn't matter. We needed to win that game."

Briar Woods finished the game with 2-for-4 free-throw shooting, which was just enough to survive an Xavier Colbert layup with 11 seconds remaining and an Arber Krasniqi layup with two seconds left.

The Eagles' late effort fell short because they started the game with a baffling blasé attitude.

Liberty played the first eight minutes with Eeyore energy and fell behind 8-2 late in the first quarter. The Eagles made only one of their first 16 field goal attempts.

"Really disappointing," Frazer said. "The biggest game of the year. How is there no energy?"

Luckily for Liberty, Briar Woods also played a sloppy first quarter and only led 10-6 at the start of the second.

"We started out like we had just got off the bus," Brown said.

The Eagles, however, played like they had just gotten out of bed.

Perhaps the sparse crowd in Bealeton contributed to that. With a 7 p.m. tip-off, the gym was quite quiet in the first quarter.

"But we have energy in practice and there's nobody in the stands," Frazer said. "If you need fans to get you up for the biggest game of the year … we're not very good."

Liberty did rally, though. The Eagles huddled around Frazer between the first and second quarters, and he verbally lit a match at their feet.

They appeared more engaged in the second quarter, especially with defensive vigor, and took a 14-13 lead on a Patterson 3-pointer.

Patterson later sparked a 10-0 run with his second 3-pointer of the night, leading to Liberty's largest advantage at 26-18.

Briar Woods, however, finally engaged its inside advantage during the second half with 6-foot-4 Darryll Ramey and 6-foot-7 Jake Ryan. As a result, the Falcons went on a 6-0 run to start the third quarter and built their lead to as large as 12 points in the fourth.

Ramey finished with 18 rebounds, 16 points and two blocks, while Ryan had 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Ramey's "a beast down there. He plays like he's 6-6," Brown said. "We knew we could beat them in the post. In the second half we did."

Connor Gaines added 13 points and five assists, while Spencer Hatcher had 10 points and Tristan Carter had eight.

For Liberty, Colbert played a typically well-rounded game with 16 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals.

"X did a great job, and obviously they were keying on him," Frazer said of the Falcons' defense.

Arber Krasniqi added 14 points and Armend Krasniqi had nine, but no other Liberty player scored. C.J. Lindsay has 13 rebounds, three blocks and three assists, but no points.

Since the Eagles advanced to the Group AA state quarterfinals in 2009-10 and the semifinals in 2010-11, they have lost consecutive home games in the quarterfinals of the Region II playoffs.

"That's really hard to take," Frazer said. The opportunity to win "was definitely there, especially at home."

"We had a tough year," Patterson said. "I thought we could have went farther."

Liberty will now lose Patterson to graduation along with Colbert, Lindsay, Bubba McCauley and Chris Vorrath.

"Our seniors, we're going to miss them," Frazer said. "I'm just sorry we couldn't get it done for them."
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