Even with a roster of mostly players who had earned a region title last season, Liberty looked like a nervous team as it played the first half of the Sunrise Region girls championship game Friday.
The Patriots, playing essentially a road game against Foothill, were sloppy on both ends of the floor and held just a four-point edge at halftime.
Amanda Delgado and Alena Evans helped settle things down, combining for 21 of Liberty’s 28 second-half points, as the Patriots repeated as region champs with a 52-42 win.
“We didn’t execute at all in the first half,” Delgado said. “We got caught up in the whole environment with the crowd. We couldn’t communicate because we couldn’t hear each other, and we got frustrated. Then halftime came around, and we came together and took off from there.”
After a layup by Christina Nash cut the Falcons’ deficit to 24-22 in the opening seconds of the third quarter, Evans helped spark a 9-0 run to finally give Liberty (26-2) a comfortable lead.
The junior forward hit two layups and two free throws during the spurt.
“We played harder” in the second half, Liberty coach Quintin Lester said. “As soon as we started communicating a little bit better, our defense was more efficient and we were able to get some stops.”
That meant finding a way to slow Foothill’s Cheryl Harless. The senior scored 11 of her 13 points in the first half, but Liberty started pressuring the ball and kept the Falcons from setting up their offense, limiting Harless’ touches.
The 9-0 run by Liberty was part of its 20-6 third-quarter scoring edge. Evans added an early layup in the final period to increase the Patriots’ lead to 20, but it was Liberty’s last field goal of the game.
Foothill (17-11) got as close as 47-39 but then missed two 3-pointers on its next possession.
Delgado made 6 of 8 free throws down the stretch and finished with 19 points, three assists and two steals. Evans recorded 18 points and 12 rebounds, including nine on the offensive end.
“(Liberty has) got a lot of strengths, and we’ve got fewer strengths, but all of our strengths were hitting in the first half,” Foothill coach Mike Collins said. “The second half, we lost our shot.”
Liberty advances to the state tournament at the Orleans Arena, beginning Thursday.
Foothill can still reach state, with a win over Bishop Gorman at Del Sol on Tuesday. Tip-off is at 5 p.m.