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Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – City High was approaching the low point of what has turned into a tough month for the Little Hawks on Saturday in its first ever meeting with Liberty High.
Mired in a five-game losing streak and coming off a 33-point conference loss on Friday the Little Hawks were decimated by foul trouble and facing a nine-point deficit with under three and a half minutes to play.
Just when it seemed like City High had every reason to shut it down the Little Hawks stepped up big.
Antonio Turner capped a furious fourth-quarter rally with back-to-back driving layups, including the game winner with five seconds left, as City High rallied for a 65-63 win over Liberty High.
“We told our kids it’s nothing crazy you just have to stick to the process and I was really proud of our guys how they overcame some adversity,” City High coach Derek Roberts said. “I think this can be a turning point in the season where you look back and say ‘remember when we had four guys with four fouls and we had some guys step up and we still got the job done’.”
City High (4-11) closed the game on a 14-3 run to erase a nine-point deficit and earn its first win since January 9.
Turner had a team-high 21 points and twice scored on acrobatic shots at the rim in the final 50 seconds as City High scored the final four points.
“We felt like we could battle back, we just had confidence in ourselves and each other,” Turner said. “We’ve been struggling a little so I knew I had to step up and make a play for us to get a win.”
Liberty High (5-12) got a game-high 23 points from junior guard Iziah Poulsen who was spectacular and led 60-51 after a baseline jumper by Ethan O’Donnell with four minutes left.
City High mounted a rally behind sophomore Keshawn Christian who scored seven straight City High points to cut the lead to 62-61 before fouling out with a minute left.
Turner took over from there. The junior point guard tied the game with a driving layup with 50 seconds left.
After Liberty High missed the front end of a one-and-one with 50 seconds left Turner provided the game winner, a twisting kiss of the glass with five seconds left.
Turner secured the win by stripped the ball from Poulsen as he rose up for a potential game-winner at the buzzer.
“I’d prefer to have the ball in my hands in those types of situations,” Turner said. “I like have the ball and I was able to make a play and get a shot to go.”
In its first meeting with an Iowa City opponent Liberty High was up to the task early.
The Lightning closed the first half with a 9-0 run to take a 39-26 lead.
Poulsen had 20 of his game-high 23 in the first half.
“I thought the guys started off a little sluggish coming of a Friday night game, some things didn’t go our way the first half,” Roberts said. “Poulsen came out playing lights out, hats off to him that’s the best we’ve seen him play all season.”
City High cut the lead to three on three occasions during the third quarter despite foul trouble that kept Christian, Turner and key bench players DeAngelo McNeil and Malik Kimber on the bench of a better part of the quarter.
Junior Ry Threlkeld-Weigand had a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter that helped keep City High close with its top two scorers on the bench.
“It shows we can overcome adversity,” Threlkeld-Weigand said. “Hopefully seeing that will help us the rest of the season.”
Liberty High still led by nine late before City High started its rally with a 3-pointer by Carter Westlake with 3:18 left.
City High forced the Lightning into 11 second-half turnovers, including five in the fourth quarter.
“That’s what we had to do when you are down by that much at the end you have to pressure them and make them turn the ball over,” Threlkeld-Weigand said. “They had 11 turnovers in the second half and that helped us a lot.”
Liberty High outscored City High 18 to 4 at the free throw line but missed two in the final minute, including the front end of a one-and-one with 42 seconds left.
Roberts elected not to call a time out, instead putting the ball in the hands of Turner on the final possession.
“That’s what it comes down to, I didn’t want to call timeout and let them sit and talk and strategize, we just wanted to put the ball in his hands,” Roberts said. “He’s confident and he wants it and the kid went out and made a heck of a play.”
The 5-foot-9 Turner contorted his body to avoid a defender and flipped a shot off the back board just out of the reach of 6-foot-5 Liberty sophomore Andre Brandon for the game-winner.
“I just knew when I had the ball I wasn’t going to settle,” Turner said. “I knew they were going to try to hit me with a double team. I saw a shot blocker so I had to change my shot in mid-air.”
Christian had 12 points for City High while Threlkeld-Weigand had nine and Jeremy Kambomba eight.
Brandon had 14 points and seven rebounds for Liberty and O’Donnell added 12 points and six rebounds.
“I’m just really proud of our guys,” Roberts said. “Hats off to Liberty, that’s the best we’ve seen them play all year but we found a way to get a win.”
City High 13 13 19 20 – 65
Liberty High 16 23 9 15 – 63
City High (65) – Antonio Turner 8-17 1-2 21, Luke Young 1-3 0-0 2, Carter Westlake 2-4 0-0 5, Malik Kimber 1-2 0-0 2, Jeremy Kambomba 4-5 0-2 8, DeAngelo McNeil 2-2 0-0 4, Keshawn Christian 4-10 3-4 12, Ry Threlkeld-Weigand 3-6 0-0 9, Jason Allen 1-1 0-0 2, Team 26-50 4-8 65.
Liberty High (63) – Grayson Tyler 1-2 0-0 3, Bowen Gryp 1-1 0-0 3, Iziah Poulsen 7-9 6-8 23, Ethan O’Donnell 4-9 4-8 12, Ben Houselog 0-1 2-2 2, Andre Brandon 6-13 2-2 14, Sam Funke 1-2 4-5 6, Isaac Bender 0-1 0-0 0, Team 20-38 18-25 63.
3-point field goals – ICH 9-22 (Turner 4-10, Young 0-1, Westlake 1-3, Kimber 0-1, Christian 1-3, Threlkeld-Weigand 3-4); ICL 5-9 (Tyler 1-1, Gryp 1-1, Poulsen 3-4, Brandon 0-2, Bender 0-1). Rebounds – ICH 16 (Kambomba, Christian 4); ICL 31 (Brandon 7). Turnovers – ICH 6, ICL 15. Total fouls – ICH 25, ICL 11. Fouled out – ICH (Kimber, Christian). Technical fouls – None.