Liberty tops Brookfield for eighth win
The Leopards used a strong second-half performance to overcome a 21-13 deficit.
By JIM FLICK
BROOKFIELD -- After a low-scoring first half, the Liberty Leopards stormed out of the locker room and kicked their offense into high gear for a 56-50 victory over Brookfield Friday night.
Brookfield led 12-8 after the first quarter and 21-13 at halftime. But Liberty (8-3, 3-2 in the Trumbull Athletic Conference) outscored Brookfield (4-7, 1-4) 21-9 in the third quarter to take a 34-30 lead.
The fourth quarter was an offensive flurry for both teams, with Liberty outscoring the Warriors 22-20 in the period.
Despite the second-half offensive outburst, Liberty coach Burt Stellers said defense was the key to his team's win. The Leopards hampered Brookfield with a full-court press after halftime. Liberty also out-rebounded the Warriors by a 44-31 margin.
"We tried to pick up the tempo with the press and we were more patient with everything in the second half," Stellers said.
Leading Liberty in scoring was senior Mychal Doblanski. He scored 16 points, and his efforts reflected the team's fortunes. Plagued by fouls he spent much of the first half on the bench and scored only two points. But his second-half scoring binge of 14 points was a key factor in the Leopards' comeback.
Gillum is standout
Another key to the Leopards' success was the play of senior Ryan Gillum, who scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Senior Jason White scored 13 points for Liberty, while sophomore Isaiah Bell tallied 10 points.
Brookfield's offensive efforts were led by junior Chad Kostra and sophomore Bobby Thompson, who scored 14 points each. Brandon Johnson came off the bench to contribute six points, while Kevin Martin and Dave Nehlen scored five points each.
To start the game, Brookfield scored the first five points on baskets by Kostra and senior Matt Riccardi.
But Liberty scored the first eight points of the second half to tie the score at 21 points for each team. Bell sank a free throw to give Liberty its first lead, 22-21, then Doblanski drove in for a lay-up that gave Liberty a 24-21 lead.
The Warriors continued to battle. Brookfield's Billy Hogue scored to tie the score at 28, but White's short jumper put Liberty back on top 30-28 in the third quarter.
To start the final period, Liberty's Bell scored the first basket to give the Leopards a 36-30 lead, but the Warriors' strong effort made it a close contest until the very end. Gillum sank a lay-up to give Liberty a 44-43 lead with 2:46 to play.
Liberty clings to lead
In the final minutes, Liberty held onto the lead thanks to strong offensive efforts by Bell, Doblanski and Gillum. Bell sank two free throws to boost the lead to 54-45 with less than a minute to play, while Doblanski connected on two foul shots to put the Leopards in front 56-48.
Brookfield's Kostra sank the final basket of the game.
In the first half, Liberty sank only five of 22 shots, but connected on 16 of 24 shots in the second half. The Leopards shot 46 percent for the game, sinking 21 of 46 shots.
On the other half, the Warriors sank 50 percent of their shots in the first half (eight of 16), and 47 percent for the game (20 of 43).