Liberty’s girls basketball team had beaten its five local opponents by an average of 38.2 points coming into Thursday’s game at Coronado.
So when the Patriots led just 31-19 at the half, they knew they had to make a change.
Liberty cranked up its full-court pressure and caused six turnovers in the first three minutes of the third quarter, going on a 10-0 run. They used that momentum to down the Cougars, 59-45.
“We changed our pressure our little bit,” Liberty coach Rich Santigate said. “We got a couple of pretty quick turnovers. We have very good range on this team. We have a combination of speed and height, so we’re able to play multiple defenses. A lot of teams don’t have the personnel to do that.”
Jazmin O’Bannon began the Patriots’ run by causing a foul down low, and converting 1 of 2 free throws. O’Bannon finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots for Liberty, which outscored Coronado 13-7 in the third quarter.
Because Patriots standout Paris Strawther got herself into foul trouble early, the 6-foot-3-inch O’Bannon picked it up in the post.
“She’s a known commodity now, and teams are devising defenses for her,” Santigate said of Strawther. “Jazmin O’Bannon filled in big with a double-double.”
Kealy Brown scored 10 points for Liberty (12-4, 2-0 Southeast League).
Skylar Feldman stopped Liberty’s 10-0 run with a 3-pointer with 3:19 left in the third quarter. It was the first bucket Coronado (12-6, 1-1) scored after halftime, and the only 3-pointer of the game for the Cougars.
Feldman scored five of Coronado’s seven third-quarter points, and finished with 11 points.
Dajah Washington had 12 points to lead the Cougars, who shot just 13-for-49 (26.5 percent) from the field and 18-for-32 (56.3 percent) from the line.
Santigate credits the Patriots’ success to their tough non-conference schedule, which included 10 out-of-state opponents and just two home meetings in 16 games. He believes the ceiling is high for Liberty, which got to the state semifinals last season.
“We challenged the girls a little bit, and so far it’s working,” Santigate said. “It was to show them what the playoffs will be like.
“We’d be disappointed to not get (to state). We set our sights on that, but you have to take it one game at a time.”