Brookfield escapes with win at Liberty
The Warriors took a one-game lead in the conference race with the victory.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
LIBERTY -- A major blunder by Liberty around the final minute of play prevented the Leopards from perhaps getting some late opportunities to regain the lead against Brookfield Thursday night in a girls high school basketball game.
With the Warriors leading, 39-37, thanks to Morgan Bonekovic's second straight goal underneath with about 1:27 left, and in possession of the ball starting at 1:00, Liberty failed to foul until only 13 seconds were left on the clock.
That enabled Brookfield to add four more points on Bonekovic's and Kelly Jones' two foul shots each in the waning seconds to emerge with a 43-37 victory, in a battle between Trumbull Athletic Conference powers at the Leopards' gym.
Bonekovic finished with 16 points -- eight of them in the final period -- and also grabbed some 12 rebounds, as Brookfield (11-1, 6-0 TAC) took over sole possession of first place in the league, dropping Liberty (10-2, 5-1) into second place.
"We were screaming for them to foul. We couldn't get them to foul to stop the clock," explained Liberty coach John Hritz, whose Leopards had a 37-33 lead early in the final quarter before Rachel Gentile's goal pulled Brookfield to within 37-35, leading the way to Bonekovic's late scoring spree.
Players didn't hear the calls
Hritz thinks that his players were unable to hear the bench calling for a foul, and didn't even look over to see that he wanted a foul.
"Sometimes they forget in the heat of the battle. The captain is supposed to look over to the bench but didn't," said Hritz. Or, "[We] must have been afraid to foul, maybe because they didn't want too foul out. We wanted to stop the clock but [they] couldn't hear the bench calling for a foul."
Coach Shawn Hammond of Brookfield knew that Liberty was playing right into the Warriors' hands by not fouling earlier, but he thought that they must have had some good reasons to do it.
"They were looking for a steal. They took their chances. They are quick and they were trying to get a steal," said Hammond, basing his explanation on how his Warriors "turned the ball over a lot." But, "That's the chance that you take."
Said Hritz, "When [Brookfield has] the ball, we can't call timeout [to stop the clock]," which means that we had to do it with a foul, but didn't.
Lauren Gentile added 11 points and Jones 10 with two 3-point goals to reinforce Brookfield.
Brittany Armour led Liberty with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Katrina Neskovich also had eight rebounds and helped to contain Bonekovic earlier in the game.
Bonekovic gets free underneath
"[Liberty's defense] leaned on [Bonekovic]. We got her freed up twice inside toward the end of the game," said Hammond, referring to Bonekovic's back-to-back goals at 2:36 that made it 37-37 and 1:23 that made it 39-37.
Then when Liberty finally fouled with 13 seconds left, Brookfield got the ball out. Then Liberty fouled again at 12 seconds, putting Bonekovic at the foul line, and she made both shots to give the Warriors a 41-37 lead. Jones added two more free throws with three seconds left.
Hammond lauded the play of Gentile.
"Lauren Gentile is physical. She plays the perimeter and the inside. She gets in there and rebounds," said Hammond, pointing out that Gentile and Morgan "are our 1-2 punch on the outside and inside . Lauren did a nice job rebounding. She is averaging six or seven a game."
Hritz said Liberty was inconsistent.
"We ran into streaks and made too many turnovers. We made too many mental mistakes," said Hritz. But, "I thought Neskovich did a nice job defensively on Bonekovic."