If the Lions compete the rest of the year like they did in the recent Don Nelson Classic, Heinz feels they could be contenders when Bay Valley Athletic League play rolls around in January. Liberty won two out of three at the tournament and is off to a 7-3 start.
“We definitely made some big changes after our tournament,” Heinz said. “We tried a new defensive scheme, and it really had a lot of success.”
Liberty opened the tournament with a 63-25 blowout of Mission San Jose. Next, the Lions faced eventual Don Nelson Classic champion Dublin. Heinz said the Lions played close with the Gaels, but Dublin was too much in the 76-66 loss. Lions junior guard Brandon White scored 25 points.
In the third-place game, Liberty went toe-to-toe with a familiar foe – Heritage. Heinz said the Lions’ depth was the key to a 62-46 win over the crosstown rival Patriots.
White and senior guard Dwayne Burns netted 15 points, while senior guard Juwon Blakely contributed 14 for Liberty. Sophomore forward Shon Briggs earned 18 points for Heritage; senior forward Wayne Engelstad finished with 10.
In Heinz’s five years as the Lions’ head coach, this is the first time his team has defeated the Patriots. “The hardest one is the first one,” he said. “If you can get that first one, then maybe we can turn the tide in the area.”
Most recently, the Lions turned in a 65-47 victory over non-league opponent Concord on Monday.
Though they lost the consolation game to Liberty, the Patriots have enjoyed a successful preseason slate so far. The two games dropped in the Don Nelson Classic were the first two losses of the year; Heritage has started the season 7-2.
Freedom has also opened the season with a bang. Prior to this week’s Roy Ghiggeri Invitational, the Falcons held a 6-1 record. The one defeat came in a two-point loss to Chico on Dec. 10.
– Compiled by Justin Lafferty