By Don Nelson
Starting the second half of the Central Washington 2B league season, the Liberty Bell High School girls’ basketball team is in good position to qualify for post-season play.
In games last week, the Lady Lions beat Manson and Bridgeport while dropping a hard-fought game to Tonasket, which shares the league’s top spot and a 7-1 record (9-3 overall) with Brewster (7-2 overall) going into this week’s contests.
Liberty Bell and Lake Roosevelt were tied for third place with 6-2 records in league play. The Lady Lions are 7-5 overall, with three more wins than last year’s total already. Liberty Bell’s next eight games include six opponents it has beaten this season.
An overview of last week’s games:
• Liberty Bell 47, Manson 27 (Jan. 3). Senior Lauren Fitzmaurice scored 20 points, followed by Lauren Ochoa with 12, Katie Labanauskas with eight, Haley Bakke with four, Megan Dammann with two and Jenna Miller with one.
JV: Liberty Bell 41, Manson 8 (McKenna Ott 9, Hailey Damman 8, Emily Paul 6, Hannah Bakke 4, Ali Palm 4, Naomi Carter 4, Ava Mott 2, A’Leigh Priest 2, Lillian Cooley 2).
• Tonasket 59, Liberty Bell 49 (Jan. 5). In a home game that marked the first appearance of senior Exie Romero this season, the Lady Lions got off to an 11-10 lead in the first quarter, overcoming Tonasket’s press. In the second quarter, Tonasket took advantage of Liberty Bell turnovers to claim a 25-20 lead at the half.
The teams played a dead-even third quarter, each putting up 13 points, although the Lady Lions got as close as three points with about three minutes to go.
Liberty Bell was back within three, 40-37, with about six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. But then a Tonasket surge put the visitors up by 15, 56-41 with a little more than two minutes remaining.
The Lady Lions weren’t through. Romero (who was coming off a shoulder injury that required surgery), Lauren Ochoa and Haley Bakke scored successive buckets that cut the lead to nine points with a little more than a minute to go. But that was as close as they got.
Liberty Bell played most of the second half without Labanauskas, who fouled out early in the third quarter. In an aggressively played game, Haley Bakke fouled out late in the fourth quarter, and Fitzmaurice fouled out with 35 seconds left after scoring a team-leading 14 points. Tommie Ochoa had four fouls for the Lady Lions.
“We didn’t back off,” Liberty Bell coach Ed Smith said of the rugged game. “We had to go after it with them [Tonasket].”
Smith said turnovers and missed free throws cost the Lady Lions opportunities to stay closer or win the game. It was the only game in the past four that Fitzmaurice didn’t score at least 20 points, but Tonasket was keying on her. At one point the Tonasket coach yelled at his players, “you have to know where she [Fitzmaurice] is all the time.”
Lauren Ochoa added 10 points in the scoring column, Haley Bakke seven, Carlynn Treise six, Romero five, Tommie Ochoa four and Labanauskas three.
JV: Liberty Bell 30, Tonasket 27 (Jenna Miller 8, Emily Paul 6, McKenna Ott 4, Lillian Cooley 4, Ava Mott 3, Hannah Bakke 2, A’Leigh Priest 2, Willow Temple 1).
• Liberty Bell 50, Bridgeport 32 (Jan. 7). The Lady Lions visited Bridgeport for a Saturday game and came away with a relatively easy win. Fitzmaurice scored 22 points for Liberty Bell, followed by Labanauskas with 10, Lauren Ochoa with 7, Tommie Ochoa with three, Haley Bakke, Emily Paul and Nadine Treise with two each, and Amanda Dwinell and Jenna Miller with one each.
JV: Bridgeport 34, Liberty Bell 32 (Willow Temple 8, Ali Palm 8, McKenna Ott 5, Lilly Cooley 5, Ava Mott 4, Jenna Miller 2).
Through 12 games, Fitzmaurice is averaging 14.2 points a game, Lauren Ochoa 8.8 points and Labanauskas 8.5 points.
The Lady Lions host Waterville-Mansfield on Friday (Jan. 13) with tip-off at 6 p.m. Next Tuesday (Jan. 17) they travel to Lake Roosevelt.