The Wolverines jumped on the host Lions early, scoring the first 12 points of the game. But Liberty closed the gap to seven at the end of the first quarter, providing some hope for Lion fans that the game would be close. The second quarter put an end to the competitive dimension of the game, however, despite Deer Valley scoring only 11 points. The only Lion points of the period came on free throws from Darren Meeks, providing Deer Valley with a 16-point halftime lead.
The teams played evenly in the second half. But the Wolverine lead was never less than 12 points, due in large part to a constant press that Liberty had a hard time figuring out until late in the game.
The Lions were led by Anthony Augliera’s eight points followed by Matt Sisneros with seven and Brandon White, Meeks and Justin Payton with six apiece.
Olajuwon Garner led Deer Valley with 13 points, Andre McPhail scored 10, two of them coming on a monstrous put back dunk. Brandon Washington also notched 10, all of which came in the second half.
Deer Valley Coach Richard Morton was pleased with the win, but saw room for improvement. “I thought that we could have played better,” he said. “Obviously we played well enough to win. First league game on the road is always tough. But it’s a start; it’s a beginning. I like who we have. I think we have a good mixture of young guys and veterans. We have good inside and good outside guys. I like the nucleus that we have.”
Regarding areas in need of improvement, Morton said, “Better defense, rebounding more, execution. I think sometimes we get lackadaisical in our execution. Guys take what we are trying to do for granted and they don’t go through it full speed.” On the positive side: “I like that we shared the basketball; I like that we don’t have selfish guys. I think we’ve got good camaraderie between the players, which is good. Team chemistry is important.”
According to Liberty Coach Jon Heinz, “You have to give Deer Valley all the credit. They’re a top-10 team in the Bay Area now for a reason. They are number eight right now, but don’t pay attention to that, they are way higher than eight – they’re a great basketball team.
“I started a freshman point guard against a top team in the Bay Area. We’re by far the youngest team in the league. I don’t even have a question about that. It’s nice to see that even though we’re young, we can still battle against top teams.
“Defensively I thought we played amazing tonight. They scored 79 points the other night, and if we don’t turn the ball over so much, we hold that team below 50 points. We had a great defensive effort tonight, but when you score two points in the second quarter, you can’t win. Look at the last quarter, though; they pressed the whole night and we scored 22 points in that quarter.”
Heinz knows that his team has work to do. “We’re not a good shooting team,” he said. “So we don’t shoot the ball well and we don’t have that dominant inside presence like McPhail on their team. We shot eight for 22 from the free throw line. We limit turnovers, we make even 15 out of 22 from the line, and we’re really right there.
“I know the score says one thing, but we’re competing. I’m sure we surprised Deer Valley tonight. We know we’re young; we know it’s going to be a process. But the strides are coming. Two of my three leading scorers on varsity are a freshman and a sophomore, so there’s more coming.”