The Liberty girls basketball team didn’t take its first lead of the game Thursday night until overtime. That alone says how much the Redhawks had to fight to keep their season alive in the 5A state semifinal against College Station.
But there has never been any question during the season about Liberty’s toughness.
“They’re fighters,” Liberty coach Ross Reedy said. “They never give up.”
That’s the reason that Liberty is headed back to the state championship game after a 44-41 overtime victory over College Station at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Liberty (29-11) will play San Antonio Veterans Memorial in the championship game at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Liberty trailed by six points with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, but Lily Ziemkiewicz hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to cut College Station’s lead to 38-35, and after a defensive stop, Maya Jain hit a 3-pointer from the corner to tie the game at 38-38.
Jain hit a pair of 3-pointers in the game and Ziemkiewicz found the range when the Redhawks really needed it, making 5 of 6 in the game to finish with a game-high 16 points.
College Station (32-7) packed its defense in the lane to keep Liberty’s typical high scorer, Jazzy Owens-Barnett, from getting to the basket. Owens-Barnett finished with only seven points, but when the defense converged on her, she found open shooters. With Liberty trailing 40-39 in overtime, Owens-Barnett drove the lane, got cut off, and then passed to Ziemkiewicz, who drained a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left.
Watching Ziemkiewicz and Jain step up and hit 3-pointers, Owens-Barnett said, “was probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time.”
Playing for the state championship is certainly a cool thing, and the Redhawks will be doing it for the third time in five seasons. They’re back in the championship game despite returning only one player – Owens-Barnett – who played in last year’s title game. Of Liberty’s five players who scored Thursday night, three are juniors and two are sophomores.
“Young teams are very frustrating early in the year,” Reedy said jokingly after the game, “but they’re a lot of fun at the end of the year.”