By Phillip Gibbs
Special to West Valley Preps
The No. 14 ranked Liberty Lions, fresh off a play-in round win against Queen Creek, met a formidable opponent in the No. 3 Phoenix Sierra Linda Bulldogs in round one of the 5A state girls basketball tournament on Thursday.
Sierra Linda lost by one point in the semifinal round of the state tournament last year and came into this match-up having doubled the scoring output of their opponents during the regular season. That did not change as the Bulldogs would go on to beat the Lions 55-24 en route to the quarterfinal round of the tournament.
“They executed well and number 11 Janae Gonzales got hot quick,” said Liberty Coach Lindsey Abramson.
Gonzales a junior, got hot in the third quarter, hitting five three pointers and finishing the game with seven total. She finished the game with 27 points.
“She had a bit of a dry spell and we were hoping that she’d come out of it. It was really nice what she was able to do tonight,” said Bulldogs head coach Desirae Caranza.
Sierra Linda displayed an intensity on defense that overwhelmed the Lions from the opening tip.
“We’ve been really defensive minded but we let up a little bit. We’re getting back to our roots which are on defense,” added Coach Caranza.
Liberty was unable to find many open lanes throughout the game as a result of that defense and Sierra Linda capitalized off forced turnovers.
The Lions were still in the game after the first quarter, down 15-6, but continued to turn-over the ball moving into the second. In the second Sierra Linda gave themselves plenty of second looks at the basket grabbing numerous offensive rebounds to go up 25-11.
They would end that quarter up 28-11 off a last second three pointer by the Bulldogs’ Cheyenne Lee.
“We didn’t run our offense well. I believe we’re better than that but we didn’t show that we’re better than that,” said coach Abramson when asked about her teams performance tonight.
Liberty’s high scorers of the game were senior Megan Smith and freshman Brooke Hoeltge with six points each.
“They’re a really good team. We’re still young and we’ll have a lot of experience coming back. I’m hopeful for the future,” added Coach Abramson.
Sierra Linda hosts No. 6 Goodyear Desert Edge in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament Friday.