Bend uses a 29-3 run in the second half to flip the script and send Liberty packing

Momentum is a funny thing.

Last Saturday, facing Bend in the first round of the Class 5A boys basketball state playoffs, Liberty’s young team learned that momentum can shift in the blink of an eye.

Leading by four points with 3:37 left in the third quarter, the Falcons watched as Bend’s veteran squad reeled off a 13-0 run to take control of the game, and the Lava Bears used that momentum to cruise to a 66-45 victory that punched their ticket to the 5A state tournament, which is being held this week at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene.

When it was all said and done, Bend put together a 29-3 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters and stunned the visiting COURTESY PHOTO: JOE KLINE/BEND BULLETIN - Liberty's Brayden Bafaro goes up for a shot over Bend's Steffan Kearsley and Connor Scott during Saturday's state playoff game.

Seventh-ranked Bend (17-7) opened the state tournament on Thursday with a matchup against No. 2 Churchill (23-2).

For Liberty (17-9), the season ended in difficult fashion. The sophomore-heavy Falcons finished fourth in the Northwest Oregon Conference and won a state play-in game against Dallas two weeks ago, but couldn’t slam the door on Bend last Friday despite leading in the second half.

Koby Alvarado scored 16 of his game-high 21 points in the first half as Liberty overcame a sluggish start to pull within 28-27 at halftime. The Falcons opened the second half on an 8-3 run to go ahead by four, but that was when the momentum shifted.

Bend substitute Cole Harmeson made back-to-back buckets to tie the game, and fellow reserve Bryan Holliday buried a 3-pointer on the Lava Bears’ next possession to make it 38-35. Following a Liberty turnover, Wyatt Beaumarchais made a three to further extend the lead, and the senior point guard finished the third quarter with a nifty pass to Holliday, who buried yet another trifecta to give Bend a 44-35 lead going into the final stanza.

The Lava Bears kept their foot on the gas pedal in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Falcons 22-10 to seal the playoff victory.

Bend benefitted from some hot shooting all night long, with 12 of the team’s 24 made field goals coming from beyond the arc. Beaumarchais, Holliday and J.J. Spitler each made three 3-pointers in the game, and the Lava Bears opened play with five trifectas in the first quarter while building a 15-2 lead.

Connor Scott led Bend with 14 points and four assists, Jaylin Robinson had 13 points and nine rebounds, and Beaumarchais added 11 points. Spitler and Holliday rounded out a balanced scoring effort with nine points apiece.

Alvarado provided almost all of Liberty’s offense, scoring 21 points while no other player had more than six. The senior made three 3-pointers in the first half as the Falcons hung tough, but he had only five points after halftime and Liberty’s offense fizzled under increased pressure from Bend.

Jacob Mast and Byron Greenlee scored six points apiece for Liberty, and Brayden Bafaro added five points in the loss.

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