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Leopards keep roaring

Staff photo / Brad Emerine JFK’s Faith Hollobaugh drives to the basket against Trinity Lamb of Liberty in the Leopards’ 80-38 win Monday.

LIBERTY — After finishing 15-11 last season and reaching a Division III district final for the first time in program history, the Liberty High School girls basketball team has its sights set a bit higher this year.

“We only have two starters back, but both are seniors and four-year starters,” coach Deidre Watson said. “Plus we’ve added some good, young players, so the expectations are higher now.”

The Leopards showed off their spots again Monday, beating visiting John F. Kennedy, 80-38, to improve to 4-1.

Freshman Cianna Smith scored 10 of her 15 points in the first period when Liberty raced to a 23-5 lead. Senior Delia Watson scored eight of her game-high 20 points in the second quarter as the margin grew to 38-15. Senior Shar’Da Williamson spaced out her 16 points as did freshman Demi Watson, who tallied 11 points.

“Gabby Joseph is our fifth starter, but we only have her for half the season because she transferred in from Cardinal Mooney,” coach Watson said. “Her back-up is going to be a freshman or sophomore, so we’ve got to prepare these young girls and develop them for the second half of the season.”

Staff photo / Brad Emerine Liberty's Demi Watson drives the lane in the Leopards’ 80-38 win Monday over John F. Kennedy.

The Leopards played every healthy body on their bench extended minutes against Kennedy.

“When we’re up like we were tonight, I give them all challenges,” coach Watson said. “Tonight, we wanted to work on limiting our turnovers and denying Kennedy offensive rebounds. We try not to get distracted in games where the point differential is great. We want the girls focused as much as possible and working on things.

“With the younger girls, we’re working on defensive schemes and offensive schemes. We can work on things in game opportunities and get better. We’ll rely on our two fourth-year starters for their leadership both on the court and off the court. They need to get the girls acclimated to our game and be there to provide a shoulder to lean on for the younger girls.”

Kennedy didn’t provide much push back and coach John Condoleon expected the result to be as it was.

“Caitlyn Condoleon is our only returning starter and Faith Hollobaugh, as a sophomore, is the only other returning letterwinner,” he said. “Myriah Merten played as a freshman and sophomore, but didn’t play last year. But she came back this year and she helps handle the ball. Other than those three, we’re basically all freshmen.

Staff photo / Brad Emerine Cianna Smith, left, of Liberty battles with Julia Toth of John F. Kennedy for a rebound.

“Liberty has some very good veterans who have been playing together for a long time. There are only certain things we are able to do. We’re not very big and we’re not very fast. Liberty is fast, they’re big and they love to run and push the ball. It was a challenge tonight and we knew it would be facing them this early in the year.”

Caitlyn Condoleon scored 18 points, including four 3-pointers. Hollobaugh scored six points and Merten added five points.

“I think we’re going to take something from this. This is a growing time for us. We need to learn and get better, move on from this. We play four more games before Christmas break and we’ll take all the positive moments up to that point and then we’ll work on the rest of the stuff over that two-week break.

“This team wants to play. The girls are hungry to learn and hungry to play. They want to get better and that’s encouraging. I’m very proud of these kids because they never gave up. That’s what makes me proud. They won’t give up, so we’ll get better.

On Wednesday, the Eagles will play at Heartland Christian while the Leopards begin AAC-Blue Tier play at Crestview.

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