GIRARD - Nobody likes to lose to his or her rival, especially not twice in one season, and this was on Girard's mind Friday night when it hosted Liberty.
Following a loss in the first meeting on Dec. 6, the Indians faced that situation against the Leopards, but the Indians left nothing to chance, pulling away in the second half for a 62-46 win. Girard (9-2, 5-1 All-American Conference, National Division) took the lead on a Jimmy Standohar 3-pointer at the end of the first half and never trailed after that.
"They got us, 87-67, up there and really beat the heck out of us," Girard coach Craig Hannon said. "I think our kids responded well. You don't want to lose to your rivals, especially twice (in the same season)."
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Girard’s Evan Standohar (5) drives to the basket as Liberty’s Cameron Clark, left, holds his position and Danny Markulin, background, goes after the ball during first-half action on Friday night.
To go along with that buzzer-beating 3, Standohar had a busy night against the Leopards (7-5), as the senior guard dropped a game-high 18 points. His biggest contribution came in the second quarter, when the 5-foot-9 Standohar scored nine points, all in the final four minutes. He hit two shots from beyond the arc and completed a three-point play at the 1:37 mark after being fouled on a floater.
For Standohar, it didn't matter about the points, and he instead pointed to his efforts on the boards, where he grabbed a team-high nine to fall one rebound short of a double-double.
"I just do whatever I can to help my team win," Standohar said. "Tonight, I got a few more rebounds than I usually do. It's just whatever it took tonight. I had to - it was too big of a game."
Liberty started the game dictating the pace with an up-and-down tempo, which allowed the Leopards to take a four-point lead, 23-19, at the 3:10 mark. Eventually, however, Girard slowed down the game, which suited the Indians just fine and really gave them an advantage.
"We wanted to slow the game a little bit," Hannon said. "Last game, they got us in transition a ton, and we never stopped them. They're really good when they get out and run. We just slowed the game down, and I tell you what, our kids executed."
Despite this, Liberty managed to claw back halfway through the third quarter, as Leslie Carter drained a 3-pointer at the 3:54 mark to make Liberty's deficit, 33-31, but that's when Girard started to pull away.
On two-straight possessions, Standohar drove and dished to a wide-open Dylan O'Hara outside of the arc, and the 6-foot-2 junior, who scored 16 points, buried both shots to spark a 16-7 run that stretched into the first minute-and-a-half of the fourth quarter. Liberty never recovered.
"It's great playing with Dylan," Standohar said. "Everyone knows in the area how good of a shooter he is. Anytime I can get him open or if he's left open, it's my job to get him the ball. He's a great shooter."
After the game, Liberty coach Dan Bubon bemoaned his team's struggles on the offensive end. Outside of Asim Pleas' 16 and Cameron Clark's nine points, no Leopard scored more than five.
"Our lack of offense broke our back," Bubon said. "You can't come down and continually not score and not get good shots. It's been our problem all year. If you look at our scores when we lose, we just don't score."
The Indians, meanwhile, continue their strong run through conference play, tied with Campbell and LaBrae atop the AAC, National Division standings. Hannon said his team has a good shot to take the conference crown.
"I like 'em as well as LaBrae and Campbell do," Hannon said. "We beat Campbell, Campbell beats LaBrae and we have to play LaBrae. So, there's a lot of basketball."