Liberty girls basketball coach Chad Kapanui is a firm believer that defense wins games.
Of course, an occasional 25-0 fourth-quarter scoring spurt can also produce a few victories.
Gabby Doxtator had 17 points and seven rebounds Friday as the Patriots broke open a close game with 25 consecutive points to pull away for a 74-49 victory over Foothill in the Division I Sunrise Region championship.
The win lifted Liberty (25-3) into next week’s state tournament, which will be played in Reno.
Despite his team’s dominant offensive performance, Kapanui insisted that defense was the key to his squad’s win.
“Probably half those points in that 25-0 run came off of defense,” said Kapanui, whose deeper lineup simply wore the Falcons down over the first three periods. “I’m very happy with our defense. We knew we could score, but we wanted to play better defense.”
Each defensive success appeared pivotal in the first half, as the Falcons (24-6) capped a 6-0 scoring spurt with a Trinity Betoney layup to go ahead 21-15 early in the second quarter.
But Liberty scored the next 11 points, taking a 26-21 lead when Kaily Kaimikaua nailed a 3-pointer with 3:30 left in the half.
The Falcons tied it at 26 before Doxtator took over with six consecutive points to give the Patriots a 32-26 halftime lead.
“We started out slow, and I knew someone had to pick us up,” said Doxtator, who played for Foothill last season. “I knew as soon as one person did that, everyone else would follow.”
The Falcons used an 8-2 run to tie it again early in the second half, but Liberty built a 47-42 advantage by the end of the third. That’s when things got out of control.
Nancy Caballero hit a layup with 7:06 remaining to ignite the decisive scoring run. The Falcons showed fatigue in turning the ball over repeatedly while taking hurried shots that were not close.
Foothill’s Amanda Carducci finally stopped the bleeding with a pair of free throws at the 2:24 mark, but her team was already down 72-42 when she stepped to the line.
“I was never really nervous,” Kapanui said. “I knew Foothill was a great team. But I also knew that our girls were trained mentally to make a strong showing in the fourth quarter. We’ve been working on that all year.”
Taylor Turney, who also played for Foothill last season, helped the Patriots with 14 points and four rebounds, and Caballero added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Foothill standout Trinity Betoney finished with 16 points, six rebounds and two steals, but was held to just two baskets in the second half.