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Hawks beat Toros for season opening win

The Liberty Hawks boys basketball team opened the 2021-22 basketball season with a 57-48 victory over the Matilda Torres Toros.

The Hawks rode a 13-7 first quarter lead and never looked back in Wednesday’s victory.

“I’d say our bench is stepping up and keeping us in the game after Carson Stephens got into foul trouble plus a technical earlier in the game,” Liberty head coach Johnny Gonzales said on the keys to victory. “Stats might not show it, but their effort on defense and offensive rebounds was key. Also Max Vestal’s full-court shot at the buzzer to go into the fourth gave us some momentum.”

Robbie Greening contributed 16 points and 12 rebounds, while reigning Madera Tribune Boys Basketball Most Valuable Player Stephens finished with 22 points, five assists, and nine rebounds.

The Hawks are coming off a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs last season just before the championship game. However, with Stephens back in the fold and Greening contributing, the Hawks look ready for another deep postseason run.

But, the season is long and staying shape is key for the Hawks, who opened their season against new cross-town rivals Matilda Torres.

“I’ll say staying healthy is a key. I always preached that during practice. The holidays are around the corner and everyone will be around their families and we got to remember we’re still battling this COVID,” Gonzales said. “Right now, it’s even harder because our football team is doing so well in the playoffs we’re still missing three players. I’m trying my best to focus on basketball, but I’m rooting for coach Mike Nolte and the boys.”

The Hawks jumped out to a 13-7 lead in the first and continued that trajectory the rest of the game outside the fourth quarter. The Toros might be new on the block, but a late fourth quarter push gave the fans a glimpse into the future.

Moses Soto-Mesa led the charge for Matilda Torres with all of his points coming in the final quarter. Soto-Mesa connected on three long-range shots for nine points.

Martin Corona pitched in seven points, Amani Sua scored four points and Jos Soriano led the way with a team high 19 points. Soriano was a bright spot on the night despite coming up short.

Wednesday’s win put a spotlight on the Hawks, who continue to tick off opponents on their schedule, but the team has a big test coming up. The first time the Hawks will face a Division I team.

“This is a huge game for our program. This is probably good timing to play a Division I high school due to our new playoff format. Strength of schedule is key this season,” Gonzales said. “Pittman went 9-1 in a short season last year, but the boys are excited and up to the challenge.”

Fans can watch the game Saturday on YouTube, NorCal sports tv at 3 p.m.



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