By Doug Chapin
The Leopards trailed by 15 points before putting together an 18-6 run to win.
LIBERTY — The Hubbard High boys basketball team’s start was better than Liberty’s finish as the Eagles held on for a 68-65 road victory Tuesday night in the All-American Conference White Division.
Hubbard (9-4, 1-1 AAC White) used a 15-0 run in the first quarter to open a double-digit lead, then never allowed the Leopards closer than eight points until about a minute remained.
Liberty (5-8, 1-2 AAC White) trailed 62-47 with 2:52 remaining, but put together an 18-6 run to close out the contest.
The Leopards had a chance to tie, but a 3-point attempt in traffic from the top of the key was off the mark at the buzzer.
“After we lost our last two games, we told the kids they had to come out ready to play,” Hubbard coach Rick Fox said. “They did that tonight, they responded well.
“We had a couple nice practices leading up to this and I told the kids, ‘We’re a good team and if we come out from the get-go we’re going to win some games.’ In our last two games we really didn’t come out at the opening tip.”
Liberty coach Dan Gorski lamented the Leopards’ slow start.
“You can’t spot a team a 17-2 lead, especially at home,” Gorski said. “God bless the effort for the last three quarters, but we have a game plan coming in and you’ve got to execute the game plan.
“Then we get our juices flowing … the game plan didn’t change, it’s just a matter of how you go about executing it, a matter of intensity level,” Gorski said.
Both teams shot extremely well. Hubbard connected on 24-of-44 (55 percent) from the field, including 6-of-14 (38 percent) from 3-point range. Liberty was 27-of-55 (49 percent) from the field and 6-of-19 (32 percent) on 3-pointers.
Hubbard was 14-of-26 (54 percent) at the line and Liberty was 5-of-8 (63 percent) on free throws.
Junior guard Kurtis Drummond led the Eagles with 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists. He was 8-of-13 (62 percent) shooting from the field.
Drummond had plenty of help from Bobby Thompson who had 18 points and seven rebounds, and Sam Bellino who recorded 12 points and made six steals.
Liberty had a big game from senior guard Blair Williams who tallied 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting, and grabbed seven rebounds.
Anthony Cleveland had 17 points and six rebounds and Floyd Showers added 16 points and five rebounds.
Hubbard’s first-quarter run took the score from 2-2 to 17-2. The Eagles led 20-8 at the end of the quarter.
Liberty cut the deficit to eight twice in the second stanza, but trailed 37-22 at the half.
A 3-pointer by Williams at the third-quarter buzzer cut the gap to 49-41, but the Leopards could not get closer than eight until Williams converted a three-point play at the 1:03 mark to make the score 64-59.
Hubbard made four free throws down the stretch, which was enough to offset two 3-pointers by Showers in the final half-minute and the potential game-tying miss by Williams at the buzzer.
“We just weren’t strong with the basketball. When we got that big lead we forgot a little bit what got us that big lead,” Fox said about Liberty‘s rally. “We moved the basketball in the first half and built that lead.
“In the second half we made one, two passes and then shot. And that happens, these are kids, they feel if they get that open shot they can hit it,” Fox said.
“They don’t always understand that one more pass might get us a better shot.
“I’m happy with the way we played. It’s a W. Anytime you go on the road in a league game and get a victory it’s huge.”