Liberty High Stays Aggressive, Pulls Away From City High Late

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Photo by Rob Howe

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

IOWA CITY – Conventional coaching wisdom says to slow down with a lead late in a game.

After watching a perceived lack of late aggressiveness result in a string of close losses veteran Liberty High coach Stu Ordman told his team to keep its foot on the gas and off the brake on Monday against cross-town rival City High.

“We were so frustrated with not closing out our other games and we just really encouraged the guys to stay very aggressive,” Ordman said.

Being aggressive turned out to be the late-game answer the Lightning had been looking for.

Liberty High made eight of nine fourth-quarter field goals to hold off City High 78-67 on Monday in a Mississippi Valley Conference makeup game in Iowa City.

The win snapped a two-game losing skid for Liberty High which had lost five of its last seven games, four by five points or fewer.

“Too often we haven’t stayed as aggressive as we needed to and we have hesitated at times and we haven’t been able to pull off close wins,” Liberty High junior Kelby Telander said. “That’s why we pulled it off tonight is we had confidence, we had confidence in our shots and they were falling”

Telander hits both of his fourth-quarter field goal attempts including a big 3-pointer that gave Liberty High an eight-point lead with 4:15 left and finished with 20 points.

Andre Brandon had eight of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter making all four of his field goal attempts as Liberty High avenged a 41-38 loss to City High in December.  

“We learned from our mistakes and today we knew what to do,” Brandon said. “We didn’t like being close and losing so we pulled together, followed our game plan and took advantage.”

Liberty High (9-8) led 60-55 after Ben Houselog hit a free throw 31 seconds into the fourth quarter.

City High (6-10) cut the lead to three on back-to-back layups by Byron Benton and Jamari Newson with under six minutes to play.

With Liberty High clinging to a 60-57 lead and City High attempting to push the pace the book says hit the breaks.

Instead the Lightning went full throttle on the gas and coasted to the finishing line hitting its final seven field goal attempts.

“We wanted to keep playing fast and just keep scoring and scoring and scoring,” Brandon said. “After losing so many games that were close it feels nice to be on the winning end.

Basil Aldoss stopped the City High spurt with a basket and Brandon scored on a breakaway to push the lead back to 64-57.

Telander hit a 3-pointer from the wing and Houselog scored on a driving layup to give the Lightning a 69-59 cushion with 3:27 left.

“I thought we took a couple of rushed shots but we told them to stay aggressive and they were open,” Ordman said.

Brandon did the rest, scoring on layups on three consecutive possessions in the final 2:11.

The 6-foot-6 senior finished 11-of-16 from the field as Liberty High shot 62 percent including a blistering 68 percent in the second half.

“We were spacing things out well and really moving the ball well,” Telander said. “It was good to see the points were pretty evenly spread out.”

Aldoss finished with 17 points while Ira Hazeltine was 3-of-5 from 3-point range and added nine points.

Liberty High was 7-of-12 from beyond the 3-point arc on Monday.

“Ira had zero the first time we played and you aren’t going to have many nights where you stop one of the best shooters in the conference from getting up on the board,” City High coach Brennan Swayzer said. “He had it going tonight, Basil had it going tonight and then Andre is just a handful in there so they are tough to defend.”

Keshawn Christian led four City High players in double figures with 16 points and eight rebounds but the Little Hawks could never cut the Liberty High lead to less than three over the final two quarters.

We ended the third quarter pretty well, we went on a nice little run there the energy was up but as quick as we got it going we had some mental breaks in the fourth quarter,” Swayzer said. “We are a young team and trying to learn how to handle those moments the right way.”

Byron Benton had 14 points while Kolby Kucera and Jamari Newson each had 13 for the Little Hawks.

City High                   9   21  23  14  –  67

Liberty High             13  22  24  19  –  78

City High (67) – Keyoun Agee 2-3 0-0 4, Kolby Kucera 5-9 2-2 13, Andre Miller 1-2 0-0 3, Byron Benton 6-11 2-5 14, Jamari Newson 4-13 3-4 13, Raph Hamilton 1-3 0-0 2, Keshawn Christian 3-10 8-10 16, Max Firmstone 1-1 0-0 2, Totals 23-52 15-21 67.

Liberty High (78) – Grayson Tyler 0-3 0-0 0, Ira Hazeltine 3-5 0-0 9, Basil Aldoss 7-11 2-2 17, Kelby Telander 8-11 3-3 20, Ethan O’Donnell 1-3 0-0 3, Ben Houselog 2-3 1-2 6, Andre Brandon 11-16 1-2 23, Totals 32-52 7-9 78.

3-point field goals – ICH 6-19 (Kucera 1-5, Miller 1-1, Benton 0-1, Newson 2-8, Christian 2-4), ICL 7-12 (Tyler 0-2, Hazeltine 3-5, Aldoss 1-1, Telander 1-1, O’Donnell 1-2, Houselog 1-1). Rebounds – ICH 27 (Christian 8), ICL 26 (Brandon 7). Turnovers – ICH 14, ICL 17. Total fouls – ICH 15, ICL 17. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.

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