Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
The Liberty Hawks boys basketball team celebrates after winning the Hawks Classic for the first time in 11 years of hosting the tournament with a 57-47 victory over Minarets in the championship game. Roy Afonin, bottom right, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The Liberty Hawks boys basketball team has hosted its annual Hawks Classic for 11 years, but have never won the championship.
Enter new head coach Johnny Gonzales, who won the tournament last year with Tranquillity, and the Hawks claimed their first Hawks Classic championship after a 57-47 victory over Minarets on Saturday.
“Both games were really tough,” Gonzales said. “I have to give it up to Dos Palos. Their program is improved. Minarets has improved big time. With their two bigs, they are hard to stop.”
Liberty guard Roy Afonin was named the tournament’s Most Valuable player after scoring 24 points in Friday’s win over Dos Palos and 27 points in the championship game.
“Roy was non-stop,” Gonzales said. “It’s hard to control that guy. I know he gets a little too excited, but we have to slow that down a little and we’ll be all right.”
Guard Markie Brandt was also named to the All-Tournament team after averaging more than eight points in the three games. He also had 21 rebounds over the last two games with 10 steals.
Liberty 57, Minarets 47
The Hawks headed into the Hawks Classic championship game with a program-best seven game winning streak to open the season.
After a shaky first quarter, Hawks grinded out a 10-point victory despite shooting just 28 percent (16-of-58) from the field. However, they committed just nine turnovers while forcing 25 from Minarets.
“We talked about at half was not to fear the big guys, but attack the big guys,” Gonzales said. “We have to make sure every game to attack those big boys to get them on the bench. We only have six or seven deep and our bigs are essential.”
After Afonin scored 27, Brandt and Moises Cervantes added nine and Luke Perkins came up clutch with eight fourth quarter points to seal the win.
“Luke was clutch,” Gonzales said. “Luke has been doing great and that corner shot is his. Thank God, tonight it was on. Those two were the ones that got us ahead.”
Minarets took the early 6-2 lead before Afonin hit a 3-pointer and a free throw to tie the score. The Mustangs scored the next six points before Afonin made a short bucket. He scored all eight of Liberty’s points in the first and seven of the Hawks’ nine field goals in the first half.
Afonin scored seven of Liberty’s first eight points of the second quarter during a 8-0 run to give the Hawks a 16-15 lead. Afonin tied the score with a free throw after a Minarets bucket.
A steal from Dennis Monastyrsky led to a Cervantes layup. A Brandt steal led to an Afonin layup and a brief 21-19 lead.
After Minarets scored three points, Cervantes hit a 15-foot jumper in the final minute of the half for a 23-22 Liberty lead.
Brandt hit a 3-pointer to answer a Minarets bucket, but the Mustangs answered with a field goal. Brandt then made three-of-four free throws for a 29-26 lead.
The Mustangs battled back to score five straight points and take a two-point lead.
Cervantes hit a short bucket and Afonin made two free throws for a
33-31 Liberty lead.
Afonin hit two 3-pointers to open the lead to eight and a free throw from Brandt gave the Hawks an 11-0 run for a 40-31 lead.
However, Minarets closed the third quarter with five straight points and opened the fourth quarter with four more points for a 9-0 run to tie the score at 40.
Perkins followed with back-to-back 3-pointers for a 46-40 lead the Hawks wouldn’t relinquish. After a Minarets bucket, Cole Remner made two free throws and Afonin found Perkins for a layup and an eight-point lead after a 10-2 run.
Minarets hit a 3-pointer, but couldn’t take advantage of six straight Liberty missed shots to close the gap.
The Hawks made seven-of-eight free throws down the stretch to close out the game with a 7-2 run. Cervantes, Remner and Brandt made two each and Afonin made one for the 10-point win and the championship.
Liberty 42, Dos Palos 32
With a chance to head to the Hawks Classic championship game, the Hawks overcame a sluggish start to defeat the Dos Palos Broncos by 10 to increase their winning streak to seven to open the season.
Afonin scored 24 points and went 12-of-12 from the free throw line. Brandt added nine points with nine rebounds, but no other player scored more than four points.
The Hawks made just 12 field goals in the game and shot 25 percent from the field, including going 0-for-9 from 3-point range. However, the team went 18-of-22 (81 percent) from the free throw line.
The Hawks couldn’t get anything through the net in the first quarter, except for an Afonin short bucket for an early 3-0 lead.
From there, Dos Palos scored 10 straight points while the Hawks went 0-for-8, including 0-for-2 from 3-point range.
The Hawks picked up the pressure in the second quarter and scored seven of the quarter’s first 12 points to cut the Broncos’ lead to one.
Afonin started the run with two free throws and added a layup. Brandt made a free throw and Dos Palos put back a miss for a 12-8 lead.
Cervantes made a free throw and Afonin made a pair to cut the lead to one.
Dos Palos stopped the run with a bucket, but a 3-point play by Brandt tied the score at 14.
Dos Palos scored four straight points, but Afonin scored four of his own to tie the score.
Brandt got a steal and turned it into a layup for a 20-18 Liberty lead.
Perkins scored on a driving layup and was fouled. He made the free throw for a 23-18 lead for a 20-8 third quarter for the Hawks.
Cervantes answered a Dos Palos bucket with a layup and Brandt hit a 12-foot jumper.
Over the next four minutes, the only points came on a Dos Palos jumper. In that time, Liberty had three defensive rebounds, but turned the ball over three times. Dos Palos stopped the drought with a bucket to cut the lead to three.
However, the Hawks scored the next seven points — a 3-point play from Remner, a pull-up 10-footer from Afonin with two free throws — to get the lead to 10 before Dos Palos hit a 3-pointer before the end of the third quarter for a
34-27 Liberty lead.
Both teams had trouble finding the bottom of the net in the fourth quarter, combining for just 13 points, but the Hawks were 10-points better.
Afonin opened the quarter with a 10-foot pull-up jumper. However, two minutes went by with no scoring before Afonin made two free throws. He added a short jumper to get the lead to 40-27.
Another minute went by before Dos Palos added two free throws cut the Liberty lead to 11.
Almost two minutes with by without a score before Dos Palos made a free throw and a short bucket to cut the lead to eight with about 1:30 left in the game.
However, the Hawks were able to keep possession for most of the time and got two Afonin free throws to clinch a 42-32 win.