With center Krystal Hermes on crutches and Regina Ford playing with a broken nose, the remainder of the Liberty High School girls basketball team struggled to defeat host Park View, 62-54, in a Class AA Northwestern District girls basketball game Tuesday night.
Against the Patriots, the Eagles (16-3, 11-2) sorely missed the interior defense and rebounding presence that Hermes, a 6-foot-1 junior, and Ford, a 5-10 forward, usually provide.
"It was different playing without Krystal and having Regina at about 50 percent," Liberty Coach Ellen Chapman said. "It was a sloppy game, but we need to play with more intensity. We [usually] score a lot of points off our pressure, and we didn't do that tonight."
Liberty's intensity and pressure were present in the first half, as sophomore Randi Jones scored 14 of her game-high 20 points to lead Liberty to a 35-20 halftime edge.
But after the break, the Patriots clawed back into the contest behind a pair of freshmen. "We wanted to get more aggressive offensively against their press," Park View Coach Larry Simms said. And Veronica Skinner and Megan Doughty did just that in the third quarter.
Skinner was able to solve the press and handed out four assists in the period, while Doughty kept beating the shorter Liberty lineup down the court for easy baskets. She scored 14 points and converted an inbounds pass for a layup with two minutes remaining to cut the Eagles' lead to 42-37.
"Sometimes it's hard to believe that they are freshmen out there," Simms said of Doughty and Skinner, who led the Patriots with 20 and 16 points, respectively. "Sometimes they'll make freshman mistakes, but they are always aggressive mistakes."
The Patriots closed to within 54-52 when Doughty again converted on an inbounds play with 2 minutes 35 seconds remaining.
Simms called timeout after Liberty's Sophia Sherman made a pair of free throws with 2:17 left, but the Patriots' Crystal Doughty was assessed a technical foul for commenting about the officiating on her way to the bench.
Jones made both free throws to push Liberty's lead to 58-52, and Park View would get no closer.
Simms thought fatigue thwarted his team's comeback effort.
"After coming back from a 15-point deficit, you get tired," Simms said. "When you get tired, you make mental mistakes, and we made several mental mistakes late in the game, including that technical."
If Park View (9-10, 7-5) beats Broad Run tonight, the Patriots will host a first-round game in the district tournament. Meanwhile, the Eagle victory means that Liberty still has an outside chance of finishing the season with the same district record as first-place Loudoun County, which closes against Loudoun Valley tonight.
But for now, Chapman is more concerned about her team's health. When asked if Hermes has a stress fracture, Chapman reacted adamantly.
"That's wrong," Chapman said. "We won't know until [Wednesday] when she gets evaluated."
When asked how her team would react the next time it has to play without Hermes and her 10 rebounds per game, Chapman said, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
Liberty (16-3, 11-2)--Tapscott 5 3-8 13, Jones 6 6-8 20, Olinger 2 6-7 10, Hudson 0 1-2 1, King 1 0-0 2, Gray 4 2-4 13, Sherman 0 3-4 3. Totals 18 21-33 62.
Park View (9-10, 7-6)--C. Doughty 0 1-2 1, Skinner 3 7-12 16, Cook 1 0-1 2, Klein 1 0-1 2, Vanderslice 1 0-0 2, M. Doughty 8 4-8 20, Powers 3 5-5 11. Totals 17 17-29 54.
Halftime: Liberty, 35-20.
Three-point goals: Liberty 5 (Gray 3, Jones 2); Park View 3 (Skinner 3).
CAPTION: Kathleen Vanderslice (24) fights for rebound against Danielle Tapscott, left, Jennifer King. Liberty played without Krystal Hermes.
CAPTION: Regina Ford, who played with broken nose, can't stop Veronica Skinner. Freshman had 16 points for Patriots, who cut 15-point deficit to two before losing.