Century, Baltazar key Jaguars win over Liberty
It was really anybody's game, but in the end it was the Jaguars who wrestled victory from Liberty at the end of a see-saw game that was ultimately decided by two last second Angie Baltazar free throws, that Century head coach Dave Gainey knew were going in.
"She's been our best free shooter all year," said Gainey. "She's really confident and I was glad she was the one at the line. She believed she could hit them, and she did."
The Jags defeated the Falcons 47-44 in a game that had eight lead changes, 13 combined three-pointers, and a lot of good guard play. Liberty's backcourt duo consisting of freshman Livia Knapp and sophomore Talia Kahakai Wyatt combined for 34 pionts, while Century's Baltazar and junior Janelle Maligaya tallied 35 points while grabbing 14 rebounds. But it was the Jags who prevailed in the end, something Coach Gainey attributed to execution, especially against pressure.
"The kids did a pretty good job of executing the game plan," said Gainey. "Last time we played them we had a hard time against the press and turned it over a lot so we put in a more of a motion look. The kids did a good job with that and I was proud of them."
Liberty started strong, getting eight first quarter points from Kahakai to take an early six-point lead en route to a 14-13 lead after one. But Century got five quick points from Maligaya and Baltazer to take an 18-14 lead and stretching that advantage to five before a late Falcon push gave the visitors a 28-27 lead at the break.
Knapp opened the third with a quick three, but five straight Sarah Gruber points gave the Jags a one point lead and after two Baltazar free throws, the Hillsboro foes would be tied 38-38 to start the fourth and final quarter.
"Liberty does a good job of finding their shooters, but overall I thought we did a little better job this time of being more physical and wearing them down," Gainey said.
Which would pay-off in the fourth.
Jackie Padilla opened the quarter with a three, then Knapp answered with a three of her own and Kahakai followed that with a trey to give Liberty a 44-41 lead with 4:50 remaining, but that's where it ended for the Falcons.
After a Maligaya free throw pulled Century to within two, Liberty went into a slowdown game, playing keep-away against the Jags in an effort to kill clock and get to the free throw line. But a couple turnovers later and a Padilla basket left the score knotted 44-44, and when Baltazar blocked a Liberty shot and subsequently got to the free throw line in transition, the scene was set for the game winning free throws with 31-seconds on the clock.
"I was a little nervous," said Baltazar about her free throws. "But I told myself these are really important, so I just believed in myself and knocked 'em down."
Gruber added a free throw from there and a final Liberty attempt was thwarted. Century had beaten the Falcons at their own game and the result was a much needed victory for the Jags.
"Against their slow down, if they get the ball on the sideline we want them to stay there and not get to the middle of the floor," said Gainey. "They have multiple kids that can handle the ball and multiple kids who can shoot it. So I was afraid if we went man, we'd lose someone and they'd get an easy shot.
"They were up two with a couple minutes to go and I really wanted to stay in the zone and hope they would make a mistake, and charlotte did a good job of getting her hand on the ball and making something happen."
And what happened, led to a win.
"I thought we played wonderful," said Baltzar. "We all worked together and pushed each other. I'm proud of our team."