Liberty's 70-58 nondistrict victory over Park View on Saturday exemplified much of what has gone right and slightly wrong for the Eagles this year.
Junior center Jeff Washington led Liberty in scoring with 26 points and was a force on the offensive boards. The defense, energized by junior guard A.J. Brown, held the Patriots to 21 points in the first half. But Park View crept within nine points after a 20-point third quarter, and Liberty needed a fourth-quarter push to win comfortably.
"Our good stretches were better than our bad stretches, but we have gone through periods of the game where we do absolutely everything wrong," Liberty Coach Paul Frye said. "We try to get to those sections as little as we can, but our good sections can look really, really good."
At 6 feet 6 inches and 240 pounds, Washington is averaging 14.3 points per game. After scoring more than 12 points once in the first five games of the season, he has scored 18, 14 and 26 in his last three.
"He is playing real well," Frye said. "He's finally getting real aggressive on the offensive boards. With his body, he's going to get 12 to 14 points in the offensive flow of the game, and if he can get 10 more on put-backs, we'll be in good shape."
Washington's improvement is part of why Frye is confident as Liberty enters its toughest stretch of the season. Over the next 10 games, Liberty faces teams that were 38-33 through Monday.
In a battle for first place in the Northwestern District, the Eagles host Fauquier on Friday night. That day, Potomac Falls travels to Broad Run in a match of the Dulles District's top teams.
Liberty hosts Potomac Falls and Broad Run on Jan. 24 and 28, respectively, and then visits James Wood on Jan. 31 to end the month.
"January is a tough month for us," Frye said. "This is a big stretch for us coming up. If we could go 8-2, then that will be a plus. That would be real good."
Practice, Practice Though his players were probably celebrating a day without classes after Sunday's snow, Park View Coach Bruce Henthorn lamented a lost opportunity to practice.
"We need the practice," he said. "We need to get sharper and get more polished."
Park View did not play over the holiday break, and the time off was apparent in its first two losses, to Jefferson (W.Va.) and Liberty.
"We played two quality opponents," Henthorn said, "and they were a little sharper than we were."
The Patriots also need to shoot more free throws. Through Monday, Park View had attempted only 114 in seven games, while opponents tried 151.