Unfortunately, Costa, who is headed to UCLA next year on a basketball scholarship, was unable to achieve similar domination on the basketball court in the Lions’ home and season opener last week – a 43-55 loss to a speedy James Logan team that had beaten Freedom by 17 points the week prior.
Costa finished with 12 points, but was more effective on defense, blocking shots, snagging rebounds and creating turnovers. She started strong on offense with a nice hook shot on Liberty’s first possession, and notched five points in the first four minutes. But she cooled off after that, sinking only a free throw in the second quarter and a layup in the third quarter.
Costa’s teammates either weren’t able to get the ball to her in the paint, or the swarming Logan defenders made it difficult for her to do much with it when they did. In the final minutes she drove the lane for the first time, but her shot was blocked.
Asked what her team needs to do to take more advantage of a potentially powerful weapon in the form of Costa, Coach Debbi Weil said, “We’ve got to take care of the ball. We’ve got to recognize when she’s open or she’s sealed. Her and (6-foot-2 sophomore) Bernadette Fong have a great high-low game. We just didn’t get to see a lot of it tonight because we just didn’t execute.”
Liberty actually kept up with the Colts for much of the game. The Lions led by a point at the end of the first quarter and trailed by a point at the half. But they came out flat in the second half, failing to score in the first five minutes. Logan started to pull away, leading by 11 at one point. But Liberty went on a 9-2 run, thanks to the Costa layup and Kaadzie Quaye and Ally Mackenzie taking it to the hole, and trailed by four at the end of the third quarter.
Unfortunately, the Lions ran out of gas in the fourth quarter as the speedy Colts alternated easy layups on fast breaks with three-point shots by 5-foot Camille De Leon.
“They outplayed us,” said Weil. “They came out with a lot more intensity. They improved over this last week. We watched them play Freedom. We thought we knew what was going on with them. But they came out and hit their threes like we thought they might. And we just didn’t step up to the challenge.”
She acknowledged her team’s good first half, then added, “But it takes four quarters, 32 minutes to complete a basketball game, and you have to play hard the entire time. The little things have to be taken care of.”
On the plus side, it was just the first game of the season, and Liberty lost to a very tough, scrappy team with an aggressive defense. The Lions have the potential for a very good season, especially if they can take advantage of their strong frontcourt in Costa and Fong, who finished with nine points. Quaye scored 11 points.
“Our strengths are we’ve got some depth,” said Weil. “We can do some really good things. It’s just going to be a matter of the girls coming together. We still have a long season ahead of us. We bounced back from our first scrimmage when we played really poorly. I anticipate us bouncing back from it now. I’m looking forward to a great season. That’s the bottom line: we’re going to have a successful season. You always hit bumps in the road. If you can learn from those bumps, then you’re only going to become a better and stronger team.”
Liberty hosted Millennium Thursday and plays in its annual Stonebarger Tournament today and Saturday.