The pair combined for 43 of the Lions’ 56 points, including 16 of the team’s 20 first-quarter points. Fong, however, was forced to retreat to the bench after picking up two early fouls, and the Panthers scored the final five points of the first period to trail by 12. They extended it into a 9-2 run, narrowing Liberty’s lead to five.
But the Lions responded with five of the first half’s final seven points, stretching their lead to 27-19 as the teams headed to the locker room.
The Lions’ success at responding to the Panthers’ run was due to their effort in the paint, according to second-year Coach Debbi Weil. “We just continued to play as a team,” she said. “When they closed within five, we just controlled the boards and took advantage of the opportunities they gave us.”
Fong returned in the second half, and the Lions made sure the Panthers got no closer, outscoring Antioch 15-6 in the third quarter, and 29-11 in the second half. Antioch rarely got more than one look on an offensive possession, as Costa finished with 16 rebounds to go with her 25 points. Kaadzie Quaye added another five rebounds for the Lions to go with her eight points and four assists, as Liberty posted one of its most complete wins of the season.
“The girls played like a complete unit,” said Weil, referring to their second-half domination of the Panthers, a team that was coming off a surprising victory over Heritage. “It didn’t matter who was in the game at the time – they all made great decisions and executed on the court.”
Liberty also got an emotional spark in the second half with the return of athletic guard Erica Williams, in her first action since suffering a badly sprained ankle in the first couple minutes of a game against Freedom two weeks ago.
The Lions got another boost from an odd combination of fouls early in the fourth quarter. Leading by nearly 20 points, Panther guard Erica Beverly was whistled for a blocking foul, her fourth of the evening. She was then assessed a technical for arguing the call, resulting in her ejection from the game. Antioch quickly sent a substitute to the bench, but was whistled 20 seconds later for not taking Beverly off the court, despite different sets of instructions from the officials.
The result was six consecutive Lion free throws. They sunk four, took possession of the ball and scored again, driving the nail in the Panther coffin.
The victory boosted Liberty’s record to 5-2 in Bay Valley Athletic League play, while the Panthers fell to 3-4. Tatjana Pitts led Antioch with 10 points.
Liberty played Freedom Tuesday, the results of which were not available at press time. Friday, Jan. 29, the Lions travel to Heritage and on Tuesday, Feb. 2, they host Pittsburg. Antioch played Deer Valley on Tuesday, hosts Freedom Friday, and plays on the road Tuesday at Heritage.