There are several common threads running through the Liberty Bell High School basketball program this year. Both coaches are new to the title of “head coach,” both are Liberty Bell alumni and both helped lead their Mountain Lion teams to success at the league and state levels.
Add to that, assistant coaches in both programs Kyle Northcott and Liam Daily are also former LBH basketball players.
That may be where the similarities end, at least for now, though. The programs are at vastly different stages in their cyclical and evolutionary development. The boys’ program, having taken some lumps in recent years, began to show signs of life two years ago during the makeshift spring COVID season of 2020. That development continued last year despite several missing players and a coaching controversy.
All of that is in the past, and the boys have opened the 2022-23 season with some impressive performances in a short-handed, yet competitive, opening home loss to the Omak Pioneers, complete domination of the Pateros Billygoats, and a stubborn 12-point loss to perennial power Brewster last Thursday in the Bears’ brand new facility.
A depleted, yet game Mountain Lion squad took on the Omak Pioneers and battled to a 67-58 loss in the Den on Dec. 1. Missing five key players from the yet-to-be-played state 1B football championship roster, Liberty Bell gave Omak a tussle for three quarters before appearing to run out of steam down the stretch. The Pioneers continued to run in transition and hit some key perimeter shots to ice the victory in the late going.
At Pateros on the following Tuesday, still without the football Lions who had not yet accumulated the five requisite practices, the Mountain Lions dominated from the opening toss and throttled the Billygoats 79-17. Kyler Mitchell led all scoring, pouring in 22 points for Liberty Bell. Bodie Thomson contributed 18 points and Kellen Miles 15 in the winning effort.
The trip back down the valley to Brewster this past Thursday, now with a full roster, was a completely different story than that matchup has presented in recent years. Often characterized by complete control from start to finish, with several games falling victim to the running clock mercy rule, the Bears would actually have to work for this win, turning back Liberty Bell 72-59.
Brewster had several opportunities to put the young Lions away, but each time the lead grew out to 18-20 points, Liberty Bell would find range and defense and close the game back down to a manageable 6-10 point deficit. The Mountain Lions were led by Isaiah Stoothoff’s 13 points. Remi Paz was the only other Lion player in double figures with 11. Bear senior Kelcen Gebbers led all scorers with 31 points.
Liberty Bell headed to Coulee Dam for a game with the Lake Roosevelt Raiders on Tuesday, after the News went to press. Home action is this Thursday when the Manson Trojans visit Liberty Bell, girls at 6 p.m., boys at 7:30 p.m.; JV action tips off at 4:30 p.m. The Mountain Lion boys then travel to the west side of the state, stepping up to play two 1A schools. Granite Falls comes first on Monday ( Dec. 19, JV tipoff at 1:30 p.m., varsity at 3:30 p.m.; and a Dec. 20 tilt at the Bush School in Seattle, varsity at 12:30 p.m., JV at 11:00 a.m.
Girls build for future
The 2022-23 basketball season has opened rather inauspiciously for the Liberty Bell girls, who dropped their first three games hosting Omak, at Pateros and at Brewster this past week.
“We’re just having trouble getting shots off and scoring baskets,” said first-year coach Korrie Bourn of her young and inexperienced Mountain Lions. “It begins with ball handling skills in passing and dribbling, things we are working hard on in practice.”
After the loss of four key graduates last year, the Mountain Lions are underclass heavy with Ruby McCarthy the lone senior, and Bailey Thomson and Sandra Hernandez the only juniors on a team loaded with sophomores and freshmen. They also are challenged by a lack of size inside.
The first three games have been tough for the girls, losing to Omak 58-8, Pateros 47-22 and Brewster 66-13. Points have been a premium as turnovers have provided opponents with breakaway scoring opportunities and plagued the offense with few scoring chances.
Bourn reiterated a desire and commitment to working on those fundamentals. “We’re drilling those two skills, passing and dribbling extensively. Rebounding seems to be a strength of this team, we just have to work on taking care of the ball. We’re also spending a lot of time watching film, studying how other teams play, learning the game.”
There are some good, proven athletes on this team. McCarthy, as expected, has emerged as a senior team leader, and Bourn also points toward Hernandez as more of a quiet, hard-working example of leadership.
“We have good athletes on this team,” Bourn said. “They all work hard and there is no quit. They hustle and play all the way through. We just need to keep working in practice and it will come.”
Liberty Bell traveled to Coulee Dam for a girls/boys double-header on Tuesday (Dec. 13) after the News went to print. The girls host Manson on Thursday at 6 p.m. On Wednesday (Dec. 21) the Mountain Lion girls celebrate the solstice with a trip to Cle Elum to take on the Warriors in a 4:30 p.m. match up, JV at 3 p.m.
Scheduling note: The home girls and boys games originally set for this Saturday (Dec. 17)with Waterville have been canceled.
Some honors continue for the 2022 state 1B champion Mountain Lions as the WIAA tabbed freshman two-way player Remington Paz as their 1B Boys Athlete of the Week, coming off his title game performance against Neah Bay. Paz scored three touchdowns, one on a Riley Lidey pass, one via the run and a scintillating, record-breaking 93-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The WIAA also named Liberty Bell as the 1B Team of the Month for November. Coach Jeff Lidey, assistant coach Jacob McMillan and several family members were guests of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at Lumen Field. The Seahawks honored all six WIAA state champions in football with a game break ceremony, calling the coaches out onto the field in one of the end zones for recognition and the adulation of the sellout crowd of about 65,000.
“It was amazing and kinda cool,” said Lidey of the day, “and a really fun game.” We didn’t see any of Lidey on the sidelines during the broadcast and were left to wonder if Pete Carroll had called on the Mountain Lion staff for help the result against Carolina might not have been different.