Edward Kershaw's 26 points help Leopards stay unbeaten in TAC.
LIBERTY -- Liberty High junior Edward Kershaw had one response to LaBrae's fierce closing run at the Leopards on Tuesday.
"I knew we would just have to keep playing hard," Kershaw said.
Kershaw, who scored 26 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, swished two late free throws to help put the game out of reach. Liberty won 69-62 to stay undefeated in the Trumbull Athletic Conference.
After a night of spectacular pushes to the basket, two 3-pointers and a dunk, Kershaw's moment of truth came at the stripe, where he hit the free throws with 59.4 seconds remaining that gave Liberty (10-3, 7-0) a 65-60 cushion.
"Eddie's doing a nice job for us," Liberty coach Burt Stellers said.
"Eddie's working real hard to try to get better."
LaBrae keeps fighting
Kershaw and his team needed every bit of effort to stay ahead in the fourth quarter. LaBrae (10-3, 5-2) never led the game, but the Vikings overcame a two-point first quarter and sliced the Liberty lead to two with 3:18 remaining on Jim Kittle's putback.
LaBrae didn't miss a foul shot all night and with a full court press and quick jumpers, the Vikings outscored Liberty 21-17 in the third quarter.
LaBrae's Danny Hartman, who scored 20 points, provided the charge as well as a lion's share of his team's points.
He pulled up for two fourth-quarter 3-pointers, one of which he was fouled on.
He made the free throw with about a minute left to get LaBrae within 63-60. Kershaw responded a second later with his free throws, giving Liberty some breathing room.
Kershaw and Hartman seemed to trade breath-taking scores with each possession.
Hartman began the Vikings' surge when he tossed a behind-the-back, no-look pass to Andrew Bailey.
Bailey hit the easy layup as LaBrae got within four points.
But time ran out on the rally.
Slow start hurt
"We started off real slow," Vikings coach Gregg Isler said. "We dug ourselves such a big hole."
The Vikings matched or outscored the Leopards in every quarter but the first. Liberty scored nine points before LaBrae hit its only bucket of the first quarter, Hartman's first shot.
When LaBrae challenged Liberty late, Liberty responded by going 11-of-15 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
The victory bolsters Liberty, which hasn't claimed a league championship since 2000, before it plays some tough games on the road in the coming weeks. But that doesn't mean Stellers feels like his team is in control.
"I don't know if anyone is in the driver's seat," Stellers said, and later added: "The last four years the league has come down to the last week."