Liberty’s girls basketball team wasn’t pushed in its first four games of its own tournament.
The Patriots finally got a test from rival Foothill in the championship game Saturday — and passed with flying colors.
Skating around foul trouble throughout the game, Liberty finally shook loose in the second half for a 79-66 win over the Falcons in the title game of the inaugural Liberty Invitational.
“When we get challenged, I want to make sure the kids understand the things that we need to go through,” said Liberty coach Chad Kapanui, whose team won its first four games of the tournament by an average of 42.3 points. “We knew Foothill was a good team, and they played tough. We buckled down and just made sure we did what we had to do.”
Liberty trailed only once on the game — after Foothill’s Bri Rosales scored on the opening possession — but led 14-4 after Celine Quintino’s basket less than four minutes into the game.
Foothill rallied to within 18-16 before the Patriots tried again to pull away, this time to a 37-22 margin on two free throws by Kaily Kaimikaua with 3:29 left in the first half.
Again, the Falcons rallied, pulling back to 41-38 before a late basket by Taylor Turney with 4.6 seconds to play gave Liberty a 43-38 halftime edge.
The Patriots started the second half on an 8-0 run and the lead was never less than 10 the rest of the way.
Still, Liberty had to dance around foul trouble. Gabby Doxtator scored 10 points, but fouled out, and Quintino, Turney and Kaimikaua each finished the game with four fouls.
“When you get into foul trouble, you have to change your whole game plan,” Kapanui said. “We like to be aggressive. I teach them to be aggressive and be all over the other team when we’re in man (defense). If you have to change that up, it changes the whole attitude.
“The good thing was the girls found a way to adjust.”
Nancy Caballero scored 13 of her 22 points in the second half to lead the Patriots. Caballero played alongside Paris Strawther in the post last season, scored in double-figures in four of the five games of the tournament despite being more of a focal point of team’s defenses with Strawther now playing at UNLV.
“Nancy got overshadowed a little bit when we had Paris,” Kapanui said. “We call her a machine. That’s how she works. She plays hard. She’s always under the basket trying to get rebounds. She’s scoring. She’s boxing out. She’s grabbing rebounds.”
Turney, who along with Doxtator played at Foothill last season, added 13 points for Liberty.
Rae Burrell led the Falcons (4-1) with 22 points. Trinity Betoney had 20 points, and Katey Roquemore scored 13 for Foothill.
Faith Lutheran 48, Rancho 21 — Bryanna Negale scored eight of her 10 points in the first half as the Crusaders built a 24-7 halftime lead and downed the Rams in the third-place game.
Nia Attanasio, Sam Caruth and Maddy Larson each added eight points for Faith Lutheran.
Tatianna Lee had nine points for Rancho.
Palo Verde 83, Valley 39 — Brooklyn Cruz scored all 20 of her points in the first half as the Panthers blitzed the Vikings in the fifth-place game.
Paulina Silcox added 16 points, and Abbey Hoegh scored 14 for Palo Verde, which also got 11 points from Kailah Burton.
Sandra Scroggins led Valley with 19 points.
Legacy 54, Las Vegas 26 — Dani Livingston had 14 points, and the Longhorns used a 26-7 second-quarter burst to win the seventh-place game over the Wildcats.
TaEha Pankey added 12 points for Legacy.
Armonnie Byrd and Bianca Matlock each had eight points for Las Vegas.
Clark 39, Chaparral 17 — Marieka Dent had nine point, and the Chargers used a 16-0 third-quarter run to defeat the Cowboys in the ninth-place game.
Alyssa Winslow added eight points for Clark.
Marcia Hawkins and Jade Hazelton each scored six points to lead Chaparral, which played the final six minutes with four players.
Liberty 73, Chaparral 24 — Turney hit six 3-pointers and finished with 28 points as the Patriots routed the Cowboys.
Danielle Cervas added eight points for Liberty, which led 51-16 at the half.
Alexis Van Story led Chaparral with six points.
Faith Lutheran 69, Valley 38 — Caruth had 19 points to help the Crusaders top the Vikings.
Neagle added 15 points, and Casey Proctor scored 10 for Faith Lutheran.
Almond Slayton led Valley with 14 points.
Foothill 55, Clark 15 — Burrell scored 18 points, and the Falcons began the game on runs of 34-0 and 52-2 to rout the Chargers.
Roquemore added 15 points, and Betoney scored 10 for Foothill.
Shaylyn Thacker had six points for Clark, which was scoreless until a basket by Dent with 6:01 to play in the third quarter.
Palo Verde 52, Legacy 50 — Cruz scored 12 of her 23 points in the second half to help the Panthers hold off the Longhorns.
Silcox added 16 points for Palo Verde.
C’Aree Stevenson led Legacy with 22 points.
Rancho 59, Chaparral 41 — Maureen Macato scored 16 of her 26 points in the second half to help the Rams pull away from the Cowboys.
Lee added 20 points for Rancho.
Hawkins led Chaparral with 14 points.
Valley 55, Las Vegas 53 — Scroggins scored five of her 21 points in overtime as the Vikings nipped the Wildcats.
Slayton added 14 points for Valley, which trailed 24-22 at the half.
Matlock had 18 points, and Kiana Jolley scored 17 for Las Vegas.