Principal Derek Bellow of Liberty High School mused before Tuesday’s game he thought the crowd was in for in a treat, but even he couldn’t have known how right he was.
Sophomore Julian Strawther turned in the performance of the year, scoring 31 of his 45 points during the second half and missing just one field goal attempt after the second quarter to boost the Patriots’ boys basketball team to a 98-87 home win over rival Coronado.
It was Liberty’s first win over Coronado since 2013.
“It’s a big rivalry game, it’s a league game, everybody came out, our whole school is here,” Strawther said. “I did all I could.”
Liberty (12-8, 4-1 Southeast League) started slower than it would have liked and only led once in the first 15 minutes. In the final minute of the second quarter the Patriots started a 15-2 run, and Strawther’s 3-pointer with nine seconds left, drawing the foul, and giving them a 42-39 halftime lead after the four-point play.
After that it was all Patriots, as they outscored Coronado 49-27 during the middle quarters.
Strawther was 2 of 6 from the floor in the first quarter, and his only misses after that were a half-court shot at the buzzer in the second quarter and a mishandled dunk attempt in the fourth. He finished 17-for-23, including 6-for-9 from 3-point range and 5-for-6 from the foul line. He also had seven rebounds.
“He keeps amazing,” Liberty coach Stefan Berg said. “He keeps surprising us. I mean, he missed one shot in the second half.”
Jordan Holt added 19 points and eight assists for the Patriots, and Cameron Burist scored 13 points.
Jaden Hardy led Coronado (11-9, 3-2) with 28 points. Taieem Comeaux totaled 20 points and seven rebounds for the Cougars, Tahj Comeaux scored 19 points, and Tyrelle Hunt had 17 points.
The win busts the Southeast League wide open. Liberty and Foothill are tied atop the standings at 4-1, and three-time defending champion Coronado is 3-2. Foothill has already beat the Patriots this year, and they meet again on Feb. 2. Liberty will travel to Coronado on Feb. 7, the last game of the year.
“We came out with a little bit of nerves, the whole city out watching,” Strawther said. “It’s a rivalry game for the school. The school wanted us to win.”