The Liberty Bell High School Mountain Lion girls finally broke through in a tense, back-and-forth struggle with the Bridgeport Fillies and posted their first win of the 2022-23 season, 57-53, on Jan. 3 in the Lions’ Den.
It was a combination of improved defensive play along with a more patient offense, and a more competitive matchup for the young team that led to the victory. But that doesn’t minimalize the Mountain Lions’ accomplishment. Indeed, there were several opportunities for Liberty Bell to fold to a relentless Fillies effort, especially in the second half.
Liberty Bell led, 13-7, after the first period. Bridgeport cut two points off that lead in the second quarter as the teams headed to the locker room with the Mountain Lions up 28-24, the last two points coming on a magnificent pass from freshman Helaina Remsberg to senior Ruby McCarthy for an easy layup 6 seconds before the clock expired to send the teams off the floor.
Bridgeport cut that lead in half at the end of the third quarter, trailing 42-40 going into the final period. With both teams battling all the way, points came at a premium as the clock wound down toward the final buzzer. The Mountain Lions were up to the task, though, sinking eight consecutive free throws in the last two minutes to ice the game.
Senior Ruby McCarthy led all scorers with 16 points, 7 coming in the fourth quarter. She hit both free throws with 10 seconds remaining to ice the victory.
“We just responded to the pressure really well,” said the lone Liberty Bell senior. “I knew that we could win some games this year with this team. I’m glad we got a win in my senior year, but we’re not done.”
Remsberg was an assist machine, especially in the second half, hitting Layla Mortland with two perfectly located passes off of inbound plays, leading her fellow frosh forward directly toward the basket for easy lay-ins.
“Yeah, they hit some shots,” said Remsberg of the Fillies’ persistence in the latter stages of the contest, “but we were like, yeah, you made a shot. We’re coming right back at ya’.”
Kayla Rispone was money at the free throw line, going 6-8 in the game and hitting four straight down the stretch in the fourth quarter, and junior guard Sandra Hernandez led the offense with steady ball handling and solid passing.
It was a balanced scoring night, overall, for the girls. Besides McCarthy’s 16, Rispone and Rio Lott-Bourn both scored 10 points, Hernandez tallied 8, Remsberg 6, Mortland 5 and Kierra Treise 2.
“They really played well tonight. We’ve faced some tough competition lately, but tonight they responded really well. The defense was awesome and the team play was excellent,” coach Korrie Bourn said.
Evident, also, is that this team, loaded with freshman and sophomores, is improving with every game. The road got a little bumpy over the weekend as the Mountain Lions traveled to Tonasket on Friday evening (Jan. 6), then on to Quincy Saturday (Jan. 7) for a non-league match up with the new member of the 1A Caribou Trail League Jackrabbits. Still, Bourn was encouraged by their effort, even in two tough losses.
It was a long night for the Mountain Lions as the 8th-ranked Tigers came out aggressive and pressing through the first half. Liberty Bell couldn’t solve the backcourt pressure, turning the ball over too many times to have any sort of effective offensive opportunities. Tonasket led at the halftime break, 44-2, on the way to a 58-11 win.
The second half began with the running clock rule, and went fairly quickly, but did offer some hope in a 14-9 half that saw fewer turnovers, better ball handling and some offensive output against a team that could place as high as second in this year’s NCW2B league season.
It was on to Quincy on Saturday, where the first half was somewhat reminiscent of the Tonasket experience the night before. The Jackrabbits jumped out to a 40-4 halftime lead, but the second half was a different matter. The Mountain Lions caught their breath, and then outscored Quincy 22-15 with improved defensive play and a more aggressive offense.
“After halftime we were more aggressive on offense and decided to try out our full-court press on defense both of which led to us outscoring Quincy,” said Bourn, who remains upbeat and philosophical about her youthful charges. “It can’t be stressed enough how proud I am of the girls’ abilities to not fold when they are down at the half and instead come out ready to show their grit and never-give-up mentalities.”
“If we can value the basketball and not let a full-court or half-court press take us out of our game in the first half, we will have opportunities to play teams more closely,” she said.
Bourn is seeing signs that point toward better days to come. “Our half-court defense is really tough and our offense is coming along. Despite losing both games this weekend, there were many bright moments and plays that have me excited about the direction we are heading,” she said.
The Mountain Lions made a trip to Oroville on Tuesday (Jan. 10) after the News went to print, then have a tough home matchup with No. 2 Okanogan on Saturday (Jan. 14) with a trip to Manson on Tuesday (Jan. 17) that could provide a 2-1 record and put them at three wins in the league.
Two wins for boys
The 21st-ranked Liberty Bell boys picked up two impressive league wins this past week, cruising past the Bridgeport Mustangs, 75-36, on Tuesday, and the No. 25 Tonasket Tigers, 72-42, on Friday. Only Quincy of the 1A Caribou Trail League stood in the way of a perfect week for the Mountain Lions, but the Jackrabbits stopped the Mountain Lion run with a 72-59 win.
Remy Paz and Kyler Mitchell led the roundup of the Mustangs the Lions’ Den, combining for 45 points and on one of the most spectacular plays in recent memory.
The Mustangs were attempting to get the ball in play from their own end line, when Isaiah Stoothoff deflected, then controlled the inbound pass. He took the ball in stride and sprinted up the right sideline, then fired a pass over the center circle to Paz at full speed. Paz gathered the ball with a glance over his right shoulder, finding Mitchell on his heels.
Paz led Mitchell toward the Lion hoop, and laid the ball off the backboard as Mitchell elevated, contacted the ball above the rim and slammed it down through the hoop. The jam lit up the gym, as the crowd exploded into a frenzy that lasted into the ensuing Bridgeport timeout as Mitchell and team bounced toward the Liberty Bell bench in celebration. The dunk, a historical rarity in the Lions’ Den over time, had several longtime fans buzzing after the game.
“It was one of the best I can remember,” said Winthrop Pirate alumnus and oft-times volunteer shooting coach Ash Court. “Remy probably made the dunk possible by putting the ball up above the rim, but yeah, it was a good one, for sure.”
The Mountain Lions outscored Bridgeport in each quarter, taking a 37-19 lead into the locker room at halftime, and essentially doubling their score and the spread through the second half.
Mitchell led all scorers with 24 points, Paz dropped in 21, Stoothoff had his second consecutive double-figure game with 11 points and Riley Lidey scored 10.
Liberty Bell traveled to Tonasket to face the Tigers on Friday, a game that many anticipated would be a battle between two teams looking to make an early move toward the top of the league. Instead, the Mountain Lions roared to a 30-point win. Point totals and stats were not available for the game.
Liberty Bell stepped out of league play and into the Caribou Trail League to visit the Quincy Jackrabbits on Saturday. Quincy had to work for a 72-59 victory over the Mountain Lions, who again proved themselves competitive at the 1A level. Liberty Bell is 3-2 against 1A teams this year.
Mitchell led the Lion attack with 14 points, Lucien Paz put in 13 and Lidey scored 11. The teams went to halftime with the Mountain Lions up 31-26, but Quincy scored 46 second half points, 23 in each quarter, to pass and put away the visitors.
The Mountain Lions advanced to 7-4 on the season and 3-0 in early league play, at the top of the CW2B, and will be involved in league play for keeps this coming week. A trip to Oroville on Tuesday, then a huge game with Okanogan on Saturday, followed by a Tuesday trip to Manson, will close out the first half of the league schedule. The Brewster Bears invade the Lions’ Den on Friday, Jan. 20.