Liberty girls suffer narrow playoff defeat to North Medford
The young Liberty girls basketball team got a little older in Medford Feb. 27, unfortunately for the Falcons, part of getting older is learning things the hard way — and they did that during the second half of their first round playoff game versus North Medford.
The Falcons had the No. 5-ranked Black Tornado on the ropes in the first half, building a 22-18 halftime lead. But North — led by Southwest Conference Player of the Year Megan Fossen — scored on 10 of its first 15 possessions and outscored Liberty 20-9 in the third quarter, then hung-on to defeat the sixth place team from the Metro League 46-40 and advance to the OSAA State Playoffs second round.
"We just looked like we were kind of lost in the first half and that was strange for us," said Black Tornado head coach Tim Karrick. "It was just a weird atmosphere to start the game like that."
Fossen scored 10 of her game high 18 points in that pivotal third quarter, something Karrick said was nothing short of a necessity after the standout was held to just four shots in the first half.
"We did a better job of getting the ball to Megan," said Karrick. "She had like (four) shots the first half, which is ridiculous for us. She made a couple and then got fouled often and made her free throws and we went on a nice run there in the third quarter."
The Black Tornado cooled in the fourth, going without a field goal in the quarter yet knocking down 8 of 11 free throws to stave off the Falcons, who closed within 39-37 with just over two minutes to play. But Liberty failed to get over the hump as Jane Ersepke and Rylee Karrick converted from the foul line on the other end to ice the game and ultimately end Liberty's season.
The Falcons, who started three sophomores and two freshmen, overwhelmed North in the first two quarters with a smothering pressure defense which forced the home Tornado into nine turnovers and just 5 of 17 shooting from the field.
Despite the loss, head coach Melanie Wagoner applauded her kids' effort.
""I've got a great group of kids and they go out and play with a lot of heart," said Liberty head coach Melanie Wagoner. "They come to play and that's all I can ask for."
After the game, Karrick knew his team in a way had gotten away with one and knows they'll have to play better if they want to advance to the state tournament. But, while not at their best on this night, he was also quick to acknowledge what Liberty brought to the table.
"They obviously gave us more than we wanted tonight, they played well," said Karrick of the Falcons. "They're so young, they're going to be good."
Liberty was led by freshman guard Taylin Smith who scored nine points, while fellow freshman Livia Knapp and sophomore Breeze Bartle added eight. Sophomore Clara Robbins also had six points, four rebounds, two blocks and three steals for the Falcons.