Your Prep Sports
NORTH LIBERTY – A late start to the season and a couple of stretches in quarantine cost the Liberty High basketball team nine regular season games from its original schedule.
The only way for Liberty to add any more games at this point in the season is to keep on winning.
That is exactly what the Lightning plan on doing.
Liberty High (7-5) advanced to the substate title game for the first time in program history with a 58-50 win over Davenport North (13-6) in a Class 4A, Substate 6 semifinal on Friday in North Liberty.
“It means we can keep going,” Liberty High co-head coach Stu Ordman said. “They are high-character guys, every once in a while, they need a kick in the pants but in general they are terrific so we just want to keep the season going as long as possible. They are just kind of starting to play the way we always thought they would.”
Liberty High didn’t play a game until December 18, paused practices and competition twice during a regular season that included 11 games.
None of that could stop the Lightning from making a postseason run and some program history.
Liberty High will try to secure its first state tournament berth when it faces fifth-ranked Pleasant Valley (18-3) in the Substate 6 title game on Tuesday at Bettendorf High School at 7 p.m.
“We’ve been quarantined three times, got a late start, we are about 27 practices behind the rest of the state,” Liberty High senior Ethan O’Donnell said. “This just builds our confidence and now we have one more to go.”
In a season where nothing has come easy Friday’s semifinal win was a fitting performance.
Liberty High overcame an eight-point third-quarter deficit and then outscored Davenport North 16-7 over the final 3:43 to secure the win.
Kelby Telander scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, Grayson Tyler had 16 points and O’Donnell had eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter as Liberty High won its postseason opener for the second season in a row.
“This is the first time we’ve been in a substate championship and that’s a very exciting experience,” Telander said. “This is something that we’ve never done before but something that we always dreamed of doing growing up.”
Davenport North opened the second half on a 10-2 run that turned a two-point halftime deficit into a 36-28 lead.
Liberty High scored the final four points of the third quarter and opened the fourth with a 4-0 run taking a 37-36 lead on the first of two four-quarter 3-pointers by O’Donnell.
O’Donnell missed his first six 3-point attempts on Friday before burying two in a span of 90 seconds in the fourth quarter, the second of which put Liberty High up 40-39 with 5:38 left.
“I have confidence, I’ve been playing this game since I was a little and I have to thank my coaches,” O’Donnell said. “I missed my first few and the coaches said keep shooting and they will eventually fall.”
Davenport North took its final lead at 43-42 with 3:58 but it was all Liberty High the rest of the way.
O’Donnell hit a 15-foot jumper to start an 8-0 burst that featured a Tyler 3-pointer and a conventional 3-point play by Ira Hazeltine that put the Lightning up 50-43.
“We had five seniors out on the floor and that’s what seniors are supposed to do – finish games,” Liberty High co-head coach Ryan Kelly said. “That’s what those five did out there together, they finished the game together, they knocked down free throws and did a great job together.”
Tyler had eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including three free throws in the final 20 seconds to put the game out of reach.
“We played all 32 minutes this game and previous games we haven’t exactly done that,” Telander said. “This game we came out and gave it our best all 32 minutes.”
Mahki Jacobs had a team-high 15 points for Davenport North on 5-of-6 3-point shooting as the Wildcats finished 9-of-22 from beyond the arc.
Jayden Houston and Kyle Lamonte each had eight points for Davenport North.
“They really shot the ball well,” Ordman said. “They are statistically not a very good 3-point shooting team and they shot the lights out tonight.”
Davenport North 13 11 12 14 – 50
Liberty High 13 13 6 26 – 58
Davenport North (50) – Alec Brown 1-1 0-0 2, Mahki Jacobs 5-8 0-0 15, Jayden Houston 2-6 1-3 7, Mike Lowery 2-5 0-0 6, Kyle Lamonte 3-5 2-3 8, Quincy Wiseman 3-11 2-2 8, Cade Guinn 0-2 0-0 0, Nolan Mosier 2-2 0-0 4, Totals 18-40 5-8 50.
Liberty High (58) – Cody Schroeder 0-1 0-0 0, Ira Hazeltine 2-5 1-1 6, Griffin Kraft 0-0 2-2 2, Grayson Tyler 4-4 6-8 16, Da’Shon Fisher 0-0 0-2 0, Ethan O’Donnell 3-12 2-2 10, Basil Aldoss 2-4 1-1 5, Kelby Telander 9-12 1-2 19, Totals 20-38 13-18 58.
3-point field goals – ICL 5-15 (Hazeltine 1-3, Tyler 2-2, O’Donnell 2-8, Aldoss 0-1, Telander 0-1), DN (Jacobs 5-6, Houston 2-4, Lowery 2-5, Lamonte 0-1, Wiseman 0-6). Rebounds – ICL 27 (Telander 9), DN 17 (Mosier 6). Turnovers – ICL 12, DN 11. Total fouls – ICL 10, DN 17. Fouled out – DN (Jacobs). Technical fouls – None.