Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Makani Whiteside goes up for a dunk during an 87-64 victory over Dos Palos. Whiteside scored a game-high 38 points in the victory.
The Liberty Hawks outscored the Dos Palos Broncos 45-29 in the second half to cruise to an 87-64 victory in Liberty’s home opener.
“I think the nerves kicked in with the first home game,” first year head coach Johnny Gonzales said. “They were a bit pumped up. The nerves got a little wacko in the first half. We settled down in the second half.”
It also helps to have Makani Whiteside on your side. The senior transfer, who began his schooling in the Golden Valley Unified School District, scored a game-high 38 points. He also had nine rebounds, six assists and five steals.
“That helps when someone scores 38,” Gonzales said. “That takes care of business. He’s got good court vision. He looks for his guys. When we need a basket, he makes it happen.”
Quaid Copher scored 11 points with five steals and Nathanael Samarin added 10 points with four rebounds and four assists.
The Hawks forced 24 turnovers from the Broncos. However, they had trouble on the offensive glass, getting outrebounded by the Broncos 36-31 and 12-9 on offensive rebounds.
“As soon as we went into the press and put on the pressure, guys were in the right spots at the right times and getting the steals,” Gonzales said. “We still have to finish the one-foot shot. We’ll work on that in practice. We have to block out better. We practice that all the time. Especially against big guys down low, we have to block out better than we did tonight.”
After Afonin scored the first points of the night, Dos Palos scored seven of the next nine points for a 7-4 lead. Whiteside hit a16-foot jumper for his first points and turned a steal into a one-handed dunk for an 8-7 lead.
Afonin found Samarin for a layup and Whiteside went coast-to-coast on a rebound for a floating 10-foot jumper and a 12-7 lead.
After a Dos Palos layup, Whiteside made two free throws and a driving layup to open the lead to seven. The Bobcats hit a 3-pointer, but Adam Enos hit a short jumper and Copher made a free throw for a 19-12 lead.
Dos Palos closed the quarter with five points in the final 14 seconds. Liberty was hit with a technical foul and Dos Palos made both free throws and followed that with a 3-pointer for a 19-17 Liberty lead at the quarter.
Copher got a steal in the backcourt and made a layup to open the lead to four.
Dos Palos hit three-of-four free throws to cut the lead to one.
Whiteside hit a pull-up 10-foot jumper and Copher hit a pull-up four footer for a 25-20 lead. Dos Palos made a pair of free throws and Samarin made one to keep the lead at four.
Dos Palos sandwiched two 3-pointer between a Lani Whiteside 15-foot baseline jumper to tie the score at 28.
Makani Whiteside made a free throw for a one-point lead, but Dos Palos put back an offensive rebound to take a one-point lead.
Liberty quickly reclaimed the lead and didn’t relinquish it. Afonin put back a miss and Whiteside hit a pull-up seven-footer. Dos Palos made a layup and two free throws to cut the lead to one with 1:39 left in the first half.
From there, the Hawks outscored the Bobcats 7-1 for a 42-35 halftime lead. Samarin started the run with assists to Copher and Whiteside for layups. Whiteside added two free throws and Samarin made one for a seven-point lead.
Afonin found Johnny Levine for a layup and Whiteside hit a 15-footer to increase the run to 11-1. Dos Palos hit a turnaround jumper, but Whiteside answered with a 3-pointer.
The Bobcats hit another 3-pointer, but Samarin gathered in a loose ball and converted it into a layup for a 51-40 lead.
After the Bobcats scored four straight points, Liberty scored the next four and closed the quarter by scoring 12 of he next 14 points.
Copher turned a steal into a layup. Whiteside found Samarin for another layup.
Dos Palos made two free throws, but the Hawks scored the final nine points. Lani Whiteside hit a 3-pointer and his brother, Makani, made a driving layup. Afonin hit a pull-up 15-foot jumper and Whiteside closed the quarter with a layup for a 65-46 third quarter lead.
Whiteside made a pull-up 15-foot jumper and a free throw for a 13-0 run and a 23-point lead.
Dos Palos completed a 3-point play, but Whiteside hit another 3-pointer. Dos Palos answered with a 3-pointer and two free throws.
Liberty got layups from Levine, two from Whiteside and another from William Bucaroff for an 80-60 lead.
Bucaroff made a free throw and Levine made two layups for the 87-64 final.