By Don Nelson
The Liberty Bell High School boys’ basketball team hopes to put last season in the rearview mirror as the Mountain Lions regroup for the 2017-18 schedule.
Heart and hustle were always evident during the challenging 2016-17 season, but the points weren’t there to make the Mountain Lions competitive. They finished the season at 0-20, suffering quite a few lopsided losses along the way.
“I was proud of them last year” for their unflagging spirits, Liberty Bell coach Kyle Acord said of the 2016-17 team in a recent interview. This year, he said, the emphasis is on “getting better each day.”
“We’re keeping our spirits up,” Acord said.
The Mountain Lions lost five seniors to graduation. Returning this year are seniors Cash McClane and Carson Gunnip-Hunter, who both saw a lot of action last year. Also back from last year’s squad are juniors Owen Hevly, Jude Klemmeck and Simon Studen, who saw a lot of court time as well.
New to the team this year is junior Peter Aspholm, who will give the Mountain Lions some additional height inside. Junior Brayden White and freshmen Deken Smith and Lucaas Gonzales-Ortega round out the varsity squad as the season gets under way. Other players who have to get their grades up, recover from injuries or complete the required 10 practices before they can play will likely be added, Acord said.
At the pre-season Okanogan Jamboree last week, the Mountain Lions tied Tonasket but lost to Okanogan in quarter-long matchups. In the season’s non-league opener on Thursday (Nov. 30) at class 1A Okanogan, Liberty Bell lost, 84-31.
Acord said he’ll get a better sense of the team’s strengths when league play starts. “I think it can be competitive,” he said. Brewster and Manson will be tough teams, he said, adding that “it’s a big jumble after that.”
Acord said he expects point production to be spread around, with contributions from everyone on the squad.
“Our players are committed. We’re going to play hard and hopefully it will be fun to watch,” the coach said.
The season opener matched the Mountain Lions against “a very strong, athletic basketball team” at Okanogan, Acord said. “This year they will probably challenge for the Cariboo Trail 1A league title.”
The Bulldogs went on a 12-0 run to start the game, “and then I thought we settled in a little better,” Acord said. “I thought we played pretty even up with them in the beginning of the second quarter as well, but another double-digit run against us to end the first half put us in a pretty big hole and we never recovered.”
Studen lead Liberty Bell with eight points. Hevly had an active night with 6 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists. Gunnip-Hunter and McClane each scored 6 points.
Liberty Bell’s first home game was on Tuesday (Dec. 5) against Waterville-Mansfield. The Mountain Lions travel to Lake Roosevelt on Thursday (Dec. 7), then host Brewster on Saturday (Dec. 9) with tip-off at 4:30 p.m. After that, the next home game isn’t until after the Christmas break.
Okanogan 84, Liberty Bell 31
Liberty Bell 8 8 7 8 31
Okanogan 22 21 23 18 84
points rbds steals assists
Deken Smith 1 1 0 0
Owen Hevly 6 5 5 4
Brayden White 4 3 0 1
Carson Gunnip-Hunter 6 3 1 1
Jude Klemmeck 0 0 2 2
Peter Aspholm 0 3 1 1
Lucaas Gonzales-Ortega 0 3 0 0
Cash McClane 6 2 1 1
Simon Studen 8 1 0 0