By BRANDON JUDEH
The Liberty and Jefferson boys basketball teams both were missing key assets to their inside game Friday night.
Liberty was without 6-foot-5 center David Hight and 6-2 forward Tyler Evans. Jefferson was missing 6-7 big man David Chase.
Each team overcame its players absence by fine-tuning their game plans, but Liberty was able to outlast the Falcons, 63-55.
It was a physical, gritty game from start to finish as both teams looked to find their footing and the third quarter proved to the turning point for both teams.
Jefferson (4-7, 2-4 AAC National) took its largest lead of the game by going up by four points late in the third period, but the Leopards (6-5, 4-0) answered in a big way.
Liberty finished the quarter on an 8-2 run that leaked over into the fourth, when all was said and done the Leopards made it a 16-2 run and took a 10-point lead midway through the fourth.
“We got points in different ways during that run, some were in transition, some off of offensive rebounds and some through good offense,” Liberty head coach Dan Bubon said.
The Leopards took over the game thanks to dominance on the boards, outrebounding the Falcons, 38-26.
“They had a ton of second chance shots, we didn’t do a good job on the glass,” Falcons head coach Jeremy Huber. “We had some good looks, but the shots we were hitting in the first half weren’t falling in the second half.”
Jefferson had a hard time establishing an identity on offense in the second half, specifically in the fourth quarter as they found themselves behind by 10.
The Falcons relied heavily on the three point shot, mostly because of Chase being out with a broken finger.
“Missing David (Chase) hurts, we run a lot of our offense through him and he could have helped us out a lot on the glass tonight, especially on offensive rebounds,” Huber said. “But we have other guys that our capable of doing it, we just need to box out better.”
Liberty found itself in a similar situation with having two of their big men out, but the Leopards’ Cameron Clark stepped up in a big way.
Clark scored 14 points and grabbed eight boards, doing most of the damage in the second half.
“I knew I needed to step up and get some rebounds in the paint and we were able to get some offensive rebounds and extend the score,” Clark said.
The Leopards’ Dan Markulin had a team-high 15 points and 12 boards. Darrien Underwood added 12 points, Asim Pleas Jr. chipped in with 11.
Jefferson’s Troy Bloom led the way with five 3-pointers and 17 totals points. Brett Powers added 12 while Lucas Hitchcock chipped in with 11.