Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
With Brianna Melgoza (20) watching, Liberty’s Lizzie Stinson goes up for two of her 10 points in a 52-18 victory Wednesday against Riverdale.
After an uninspired first half, the Liberty Hawks girls basketball team came out in the second half and outscored the Riverdale Cowboys 29-7 to take control of the game in a 52-18 non-conference victory at Liberty.
“The first half I wasn’t happy with. We didn’t come out with energy, intensity or hustle, the basics you need to compete,” Liberty head coach Ryan Reed said. “The second half was better. The third quarter was probably the best one we’ve had all season and we’ve had some rough third quarters.”
Lizzie Stinson, Brianna Melgoza, Camile Vestal and Leeasia Whetsel each poured in at least 10 points to score 44 of the Hawks’ 52 points Wednesday night.
Although the Hawks were scoring with ease, their effort on the defensive side of the court propelled them to a victory.
“One thing we do well is play pretty good defense —rebounding and boxing out. We stopped giving up offensive rebounds, we cut that out and the defense got to show itself,” Reed said.
Liberty opened the game with energy, but Riverdale kept close in an 8-5 first quarter. Stinson scored five points in the quarter on a night where she led both teams with 14 points. The Cowboys were able to stay in the game early.
Melgoza hit two shots, Vestal had a bucket and a free throw and Stinson poured in five more points as the Hawks outscored the Cowboys 15-6.
Offensively the Hawks were on point, but their pressure on the ball was the key. Whetsel made back-to-back plays with her quick hands as she swiped the opponent leading to a scoring chance on the other end.
Whetsel set the tone, allowing Melgoza to follow up with her own steal and coast-to-coast layup.
Liberty entered halftime leading 23-11.
The third quarter was the turning point for the Hawks. Liberty jumped out to a 10-2 run behind six different players making a shot. Melgoza led the way with four points as she continuously attacked the paint looking for a shot.
Her aggressiveness wore off on Stinson after she converted on a tough layup to fire up the Liberty crowd.
The Cowboys did their best to stay afloat, but the swift momentum change in the third quarter rendered any comeback attempt futile.
Liberty finished the quarter with a 41-16 lead.
Whetsel bounced back after a quite third quarter to seal the game with six points in the final quarter. Her ability to fight through the contact and finish at the rim proved to be the right formula to finish the game.