After closing out the regular season with a dominating 65-31 win over Oroville on Senior Night in The Den, Liberty Bell High School’s Mountain Lions took care of business in the second half to outlast the Tonasket Tigers, 68-55, in round one of the District 6 tournament on Saturday (Feb. 4).
The win sets up a semi-final rematch with the Lake Roosevelt Raiders on Wednesday (Feb. 18) at Omak High School.
Against Tonasket, the Mountain Lions bolted to a 24-15 first quarter lead, as point guard Mac Surface hit two three-pointers in that opening stanza. The Tigers came storming back to take a 32-30 lead into the halftime break. Liberty Bell regained control in the third quarter, building a seven-point advantage at the end of the frame before eventually sealing the game with solid outside shooting and a noticeable rebounding edge.
Freshman Remy Paz led the way with 30 points, tickling the twine hitting 5 of 7 from three-point range and 7 of 10 from inside the arc for an overall shooting percentage of 71%. He added 1 of 2 attempts from the free throw line. Paz also dished for 4 assists, had 5 steals and grabbed 6 defensive rebounds.
Isaiah Stoothoff added 14 points, 8 of them in the fourth quarter when he asserted himself on the offensive boards for several put-back shots. Stoothoff added 13 rebounds for a double-double, drawing high praise from coach Ryan Surface: “Isaiah was tough, creating points off of those offensive rebounds. Yeah, he played really well in the fourth quarter. He’s a tough player.”
Surface was looking forward to the third game with No. 1 seeded Lake Roosevelt, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Omak. “We’ve had trouble with flat spots in our first two games with them,” said Surface. “We’ve played them pretty straight up, but then gone cold, like the other night,” he said referring to the playoff win over Tonasket. “We just ran into a wall where we couldn’t hit anything.”
In the other semi-final, the Okanogan Bulldogs face the No. 2 Brewster Bears in Omak, after a 59-35 first round win over Manson last Friday. The semi-final winners play Saturday for the District 6 title, tipoff scheduled for 4:30 p.m., also at Omak. Also on the Saturday docket will be consolation games for seeding to the boys’ D6/7 crossover tournament, featuring the losers of the Wednesday semi-final games at 2:45 p.m., and a loser-out game between Manson and Tonasket, tipoff at 1 p.m.
Girls qualify for district tourney
The Liberty Bell girls inserted a little chaos into the District 6 playoff picture on Jan. 31 with a solid nine-point win over the Oroville Hornets in the Mountain Lions’ Den, 36-27, on Senior Night. That victory resulted in a tie for the sixth and final spot in the District 6 Tournament, complicated by the season split between the two teams.
Ruby McCarthy, the only Mountain Lion senior, led the Mountain Lions with 17 points, 9 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Helaina Remsberg, still playing on a gimpy ankle, added 12 points with Sandra Hernandez scoring 6. Rio Lott hit a single free throw in that final quarter to round out the scoring for Liberty Bell, who won their third league game of the season.
That “play-in” game, a two-quarter affair, was played at Brewster High School on Thursday evening with the Mountain Lions edging the Hornets, 17-14, to advance into district play. The first round was on Friday against the third-seeded Lake Roosevelt Raiders.
“I’m an optimist,” said Liberty Bell coach Korrie Bourn to a post-game question regarding her pre-season thoughts about this year’s team. Many observers of basketball in north central Washington thought that the loss of five seniors from last year’s squad would be too much for the youthful Mountain Lion women this year, and the early season seem to validate that thinking. While taking hard, lopsided losses against the powers of the CW2B League, the Mountain Lions split with Manson, Bridgeport and Oroville, setting up the two-quarter play-in game.
Liberty Bell’s wins against Oroville and Manson avenged earlier season losses. Perhaps the more telling of the two was setting aside a 28-point loss to Manson in mid-December, 53-25, to win at the Lake Chelan area rival’s gym, 22-19, a month later.
Things didn’t go so well in the Mountain Lions’ first playoff encounter at Lake Roosevelt. The result was much the same as their regular season encounters as the Raiders defeated Liberty Bell, 64-12. “We were actually playing well in the first quarter, and were close at 4-2 for a bit,,” said Bourn. “I told the girls in a timeout that we can play with them, but then …”
Still, there are at least two more games in the Mountain Lions’ future. This Friday (Feb. 10) they play at Omak where they take on the Bridgeport Fillies, and advance, win or lose, to the District 6&7 crossover where they will play either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed from the District 7 tournament next week. Those games will be hosted by District 7.
Liberty Bell and Bridgeport split the regular season games, each winning at home in comparative contests. They tip off Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Five Mountain Lions on to wrestling regionals
Cassidy Jones-Mowen, Liberty Bell’s sophomore and solo female wrestler, went undefeated to win the girls’ sub-regional qualifier at Quincy High School in the 135-pound weight class. She will advance as a top seed to the final state qualifier tournament at Rogers High School in Spokane this weekend. Jones-Mowen also won the Davis Invitational Tournament earlier this season in Yakima and has placed second at a pair of other meets.
On her way to the top of the podium, Jones-Mowen pinned Rayn Castillo of Ephrata early in the second round of the quarterfinal match, defeated Ashley Rosas of Quincy in a tough 7-4 semi-final decision, and clinched the title with a pin of Ephrata’s Leslie Sanchez-Guerrero 41 seconds into the final round of the championship match.
Eighth grader Yolo Paz led a group of four Mountain Lion boys in their sub-regional meet at Lake Roosevelt High School, placing 2nd, as all four boys also will advance to this weekend’s 2B regional at Highland High School near Yakima.
Paz, wrestling at 126 pounds, had a short, two-match tournament, defeating Okanogan’s Timber Super 7-2 before dropping a 21-5 technical fall at 4:59 in the third round to junior Aaron Polito of Tonasket. A technical fall is ruled when a wrestler gains a 15-point lead at any point in the match.
Andy Garcia-Lopez, a sophomore wrestling at 138 pounds, had a longer day of it, facing four opponents on his way to a 3rd place finish in his six-member bracket. He opened with a first-round pin of Tonasket’s Casen Clark, but then ran into Tyge Plank, also from Tonasket, who pinned Garcia-Lopez late in the first round, sending the Mountain Lion into the consolation bracket. Garcia-Lopez was credited with a win by fall in what was essentially a forfeit by Oroville’s Mathias Hamilton. In a rematch with Clark for the 3rd place trophy, Garcia-Lopez took five fewer seconds to pin the Tiger, winning the match at the 1:23 mark of the first period.
Lukus Vera-Mendoza claimed the 2nd place trophy in a thin field of three wrestlers at 195 pounds. He pinned Manson’s Marvin Valdez at the 3:02 mark of the second period and was scheduled to wrestle Johnny Swartsel of Okanogan. The Bulldog senior entered the weekend with an eye popping 25-1 season mark and is considered a favorite to place highly at state in a couple of weeks. Liberty Bell Coach Kyle Erickson reported that Vera-Mendoza came out of the match with a foot injury, Swartsel getting the victory after an injury withdrawal.
Damien Spears, at 220 pounds, also had a thin field for competition with only three in the bracket. He opened the tournament with a technical fall 18-2 win over Macion Clune of Okanogan, setting up a championship bout with Tonasket’s powerful and experienced senior Granger Sutton, with a season record of 28-8. Spears battled hard and tough through a low-scoring match, only to suffer a pin at the 5:30 of the 6-minute match.
Erickson was pleased with all his wrestlers. “To be where we are this year, we must be doing something right,” said Erickson, referring to his five young wrestlers and first-year coaching staff that includes former Liberty Bell wrestler Colton Skelton. “Cassidy is the only person who has any state experience, and Yolo is learning very quickly. He has such a heart for competition and wants to be the best.”
“Damien was injured last year,” the coach continued. “This year he is fighting through it and had a great tournament last weekend. Lukus really did well. He earned his way into the regional, as did Andy. Nobody got a free pass. We could end up with a bunch headed for state.”
The coaches will do split duty, Erickson traveling to Spokane with Jones-Mowen and Skelton heading for Yakima with the boys. By Saturday evening, results should be posted and the brackets for the 2023 Mat Classic in the Tacoma Dome will be announced on Sunday afternoon.