The win avenged three regular-season losses to the Lions, all hard-fought games that could have gone either way. “The girls knew the first three were games that they probably should have won,” said Heritage coach Orland Caban. “Our girls were very hungry, and wanted to beat them at their place.”
The Patriots pulled out the victory with a hard-fought defensive game plan, collapsing on Liberty’s two usually dominant post players, Corinne Costa and Bernadette Fong. The two combined for 18 of Liberty’s 26 points, but were harassed all night by the Patriots’ double-teaming defense down low, which also enabled Heritage senior Kiana Caban to dominate the boards. And that prevented the Lions from getting second looks on the offensive end, a signature of their success this season. The Patriots were able to apply this pressure while also staying out of foul trouble, limiting the Lions to just nine free throws in the game.
“The girls did a good job of keeping their hands straight up and boxing out away from the basket,” said Caban. “We didn’t try to go for too many steals, and stuck to our game plan.”
Despite the defensive effort, the Patriots still trailed 16-14 at halftime in a game eerily reminiscent of the teams’ previous meeting, in which Liberty pulled away in the second half. This time the Patriots’ composure on the offensive end served them well. While nursing a five-point lead, Lion senior guard Khyia Slone came up with steals and fast break layups on back-to-back possessions, effectively sealing the Patriots’ fate.
Slone led Heritage with 12 points while freshman Lexi Campbell contributed seven, including a pair of three-pointers. Four Heritage freshmen saw action – Campbell, Erin Asher, Haley Rose Love and Sabrina Engelstad – boding well for future trips deep into the playoffs.
The Lions’ home loss to their crosstown rivals was a bitter finish to an otherwise successful 19-9 season, in which they claimed second place in the BVAL. They also won their first-round playoff matchup with Santa Rosa, 49-35, last week.