“That was the best defensive game we’ve played,” said Liberty Coach Jon Heinz. “I thought we played great defense. Freedom’s got to average near 70 points a game. We hold them to 48 points. They have a three-headed monster: they’ve got Greene and Blount and Garner. And I thought we held them in check tonight. They had a fourth guy – Matteri stepped up and he played great. I was really proud of the way we played against the three top players.”
The Lion defense held Darrell Greene to just three points, Nick Blount to nine and, perhaps most surprising, Andrew Garner, who consistently has been scoring in the 20s, to a mere five points. But one Falcon, 5-foot-10-inch junior guard Jeff Matteri, took up a large amount of the slack by planting himself in the corner outside the three-point line and knocking down five treys. He was the game’s high scorer with 23 points – almost as many as the rest of his team combined.
“Jeff’s one of those guys that once he gets it going, once he feels it – he’s kind of an emotional player – but when he’s feeling it and his feet are set, we’ve got a pretty good idea it’s going to go in,” said Freedom Coach Drew Torres.
He acknowledged that “we’ve got some work to do in our zone offense.” But Torres was proud of the effectiveness of his press defense, which caused numerous Lion turnovers that were converted into easy Falcons layups or a Matteri three. “I thought our press was good because we had a lot of depth,” said the coach. “I think I played 12 guys tonight. So we were just shuffling guys in especially early on, and that kept the energy level up.”
In order to gain some league wins, the Lions will need to learn how to beat the press and get the ball to the hole rather than relying on long jumpers. “Our biggest thing is we’ve got to put the ball in the basket,” said Heinz. “Turnovers got us. They scored some easy buckets off of turnovers and hit some open threes. We have to hit some baskets.”
Liberty started off slow, scoring only six points in the first quarter, and gradually picked up the pace, scoring seven, 10 and 11 points in the next three quarters. They threatened to make a game of it when they got within two points, 10-12, three minutes into the second quarter. But the Falcons pulled away on a 10-3 run the rest of the quarter and that was pretty much all she wrote.
The one bright spot for Liberty was the play of 6-foot-4-inch senior forward Payton, who put 16 points on the board – nearly half of the rest of his team combined. Midway through the fourth quarter Payton followed a Matteri three-pointer a few seconds later with a trey of his own (he had two total).
On Jan. 28 the Lions lost to Heritage 46-62. On Tuesday they were at Pittsburg, results of which were not available at press time. Tonight, Feb. 5 they host Deer Valley and on Tuesday they will host Antioch. On Friday Freedom beat Antioch 52-46. On Tuesday they hosted Deer Valley, tonight they are at Heritage and on Tuesday they will host Pittsburg.