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Liberal boys spoil Homecoming in Great Bend

Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 11:21 PM CST
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GREAT BEND, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Trailing by a point early in the third quarter and letting Great Bend get into the bonus just 24 seconds into the fourth was not the recipe for success for the Liberal boys Friday night. Yet it was the Redskins living at the free throw line in the final six minutes that allowed Liberal to move to 5-9 overall with a 51-41 win.

Great Bend missed that first bonus free throw but 6-5 junior Stefan Spray was there for the putback and a 35-33 score with 7:30 remaining. Liberal reached the bonus 90 seconds later and made 12 of its 17 free throws down the stretch to push the lead to double figures.

“We got aggressive on offense,” said Redskin senior Embry Williams. “We didn’t shoot a lot of threes and let them come out their zone defense. After they did that we drove into the lane, tried to get them into some foul trouble. Then we knocked some free throws down.”

Williams hit five of his six free throws in the final frame. Senior Malcolm Wiltshire missed two free throws with 55 seconds left to play. He redeemed himself a few seconds later with a steal that resulted in a foul and two free throw makes with 39 ticks left to ice the game.

Liberal senior AJ Ramirez had the hot hand early with six points in the first three and a half minutes to open the game. Junior Shay Kerr added four points, and the Redskin defense held the Panthers to just two field goals in the first eight minutes.

“Coach told us to get aggressive with them,” Williams said. “We’ve been aggressive all year and I think that’s helped us a lot in games. We just got into them in the first quarter. The second quarter wasn’t like that and we let them back into the game.”

Great Bend senior Sam Hall had the big second quarter with eight points, and junior guard Sage Koelsch added a basket and foul. The result was a 20-20 score at the half.

Williams entered the night at a team-best 12.9 points per game yet the senior made just one of his six field goal tries in the first half. He fixed that with a pair of threes and 10 points less than five minutes into the third quarter.

“I told my teammates I couldn’t make a shot today,” he said. “After that I just kept shooting my open shots and tried to knock some down. I think I got my rhythm after that.”

Great Bend took one final lead on a Koelsch steal and layup early in the third before Williams answered with his back-to-back treys. The Redskins went on to lead 35-31 heading into the fourth.

The Panthers scored just 41 points but had three players reach double figures, led by Spray’s 14 points. Koelsch and Hall each added 11 points, and Koelsch threw in five rebounds and several assists.

Williams scored 15 of his game-high 17 points in the second half for Liberal. Ramirez finished with 13 points and some dazzling assists late in the game, and Kerr scored 11 points for the Redskins.

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