His team didn’t win a tournament title, but Liberty boys basketball coach Pat Welby couldn’t help but smile as he left the locker room Thursday.
The Patriots came up just short, losing 45-42 to Desert Vista (Ariz.) in the Platinum Division title game of the Las Vegas Prep Championship at Las Vegas High.
But for a team that entered the tournament with a 2-7 record that included a five-game losing streak, just being in contention until the end was reason to celebrate.
“It’s just tremendous,” Welby said of the confidence boost the team got this week. “They knew what a big accomplishment it was. Last week we were still struggling, going 0-4. But this week we came in and started coming together and playing together.”
The Patriots (6-8) had plenty of chances against Desert Vista, with three opportunities in the final 20 seconds to tie the game or take the lead.
“We just didn’t get some shots to fall,” Welby said. “We got a few stops and they missed a couple of free throws.”
Senior Aaron Navitsky missed a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left that would have given Liberty a 45-42 lead.
After the Thunder’s David Palty missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw, Liberty’s Randy
Tomlinson was fouled. But he too missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Desert Vista had the ball again.
This time the Thunder’s K.J. Hoffman made one of two free throws to push the lead to three, and Liberty’s Jeremy Lagasca missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We had opportunities, but they’ll fall next time,” Navitsky said.
Navitsky, who had 17 points and 12 rebounds, said the strong tournament run gives the team confidence as it heads back into league play next week.
“We’re on fire right now,” Navitsky said. “We’re clicking on all cylinders, and that should help us in league play so we can get first in our league.”
Navitsky is one of four seniors on the roster, and the team relied on three sophomores and a freshman to play key roles this week.
The veteran forward said the team’s younger players are thriving now with a week of sucess.
“Now they’ve got some confidence and they know they can play with us,” Navitsky said. “In the beginning, they were a little scared, because they’re young. The varsity level is pretty intense. Now they’re into the flow.”
Eldorado 70, Bonanza 59 — Curtis Stewart scored 14 of his 24 points in the second half to help the Sundevils beat the Bengals for the Silver Division title.
Markeith Floyd added 10 points for Eldorado, which pulled away after leading 36-33 at the half.
Bonanza’s Teyshawn Campbell and Matt Figgins each hit four 3-pointers to lead Bonanza. Campbell had 30 points, and Figgins scored 23.
Desert Pines 65, Santee (Calif.) 33 — The Jaguars nailed 12 3-pointers to rout the Falcons for the Bronze Division championship.
Chancellor Davis hit four 3-pointers en route to 20 points to lead Desert Pines. Joshua Velarde added four 3-pointers, and Najee McIver made three.
Velarde finished with 15 points, and McIver scored 13.