Your Prep Sports
NORTH LIBERTY – With postseason pairings set to come out later this week Tuesday offered surging Liberty High another opportunity to add an impressive win to an already strong regular season resume.
Class 5A No. 12 Liberty High ran into one of the few Mississippi Valley Conference teams playing better than it is right now on Tuesday evening in North Liberty.
Ninth-ranked Cedar Falls shot 52 percent from the field including a blistering 10-of-18 from 3-point range on its way to a 68-53 win over the Lightning in a Mississippi Division contest.
“They just made shots and we didn’t,” Liberty High coach Jamie Brandt said. “In my opinion we are pretty evenly matched teams, they are a great team, Grace (Knutson) is a great player, Finley played well tonight but we didn’t score when we needed to and they did.”
Knutson scored a game-high 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting and two other Tigers scored in double figures as Cedar Falls improved to 11-4 on the season with its eighth consecutive victory.
Cedar Falls has wins over three ranked teams in its past four games, a stretch in which the Tigers downed all three Iowa City schools in a span of 12 days.
“Grace (Knutson) is our returner from last year, she is the only one that has varsity experience so we knew it was just going to take time to get everyone else going and comfortable,” Cedar Falls coach Gregg Groen said. “As we’ve come through the month of January it’s been fun to see some kids step up.”
Cedar Falls had several players step up big on Tuesday.
Freshman Karis Finley had 16 points and sophomore guard Gabbie Hanks added 13 points as Cedar Falls posted its highest scoring output since putting gup 71 against Dubuque Hempstead on December 2.
“They made some tough shots,” Brandt said. “It’s not that we didn’t defend well but we really focused on Knutson and Finley and they had some other kids step up.”
Knutson got Cedar Falls going early scoring 10 of her game-high 24 in the opening quarter as the Tigers took an early 18-16 lead.
Liberty High led 28-27 after senior Ava Meyer converted a conventional 3-point play with 3:04 left in the first half.
Cedar Falls regained the lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Finley and Knutson in a span of 37 seconds and led 33-31 at halftime.
Liberty High opened the second half with five quick points and took a 36-33 lead on an Avery Gaudet 3-pointer with 6:20 left in the third quarter.
Cedar Falls responded with a 10-0 run that featured 3-pointers from Finley, Knutson and Hanks to take a 43-36 lead.
“Coming out of halftime we knew one thing we had to do was chase them off the 3-point line because they are such a good 3-point shooting team and we felt like we didn’t do that well in the first half,” Groen said. “We were hoping with that we could make them rush some shots and we really needed to get the ball downhill a little bit. We were kind of settling at times and we needed to get the ball downhill and either kick it out or get to the rim or the free throw line.”
Cedar Falls never let Liberty High get closer than five points the rest of the way.
Jasmine Barney had 12 points and Madeline Casey added 11 for the Lightning which had a two-game winning streak snapped with the loss and dropped to 9-6 on the season.
“We always talk about what we can control and that’s our effort and I thought it was there tonight,” Brandt said. “They just outplayed us in the second half but we are going to learn from it and move on. We have Xavier on Friday so we don’t have time to worry about this loss we have to move on to the next and if we play well and shoot the ball well we can play with anyone.”
Cedar Falls 18 15 19 16 – 68
Liberty High 16 15 12 10 – 53
Cedar Falls (68) – Gabie Hanks 4-10 3-6 13, Grace Knutson 9-12 2-2 24, Johnna Dieken 1-3 4-5 6, Sophie Stanic 1-3 1-2 4, Karis Finley 5-10 3-4 16, Aniah Burks 1-1 1-2 3, Grace Hannam 1-3 0-0 2, Totals 22-42 14-21 68.
Liberty High (53) – Avery Gaudet 2-7 0-0 6, Janessa Mosley 2-5 0-0 4, Bella Tafolla 0-5 1-2 1, Jasmine Barney 3-9 6-12 12, Kennedy Daugherty 2-3 0-0 4, Ava Meyer 3-4 1-1 7, Haley Schroeder 2-3 2-2 8, Madeline Casey 4-12 0-0 11, Totals 18-48 10-17 53.
3-point field goals – ICL 7-29 (Gaudet 2-6, Tafolla 0-5, Barney 0-4, Meyer 0-1, Schroeder 2-3, Casey 3-10), CF 10-18 (Hanks 2-4, Knutson 4-5, Dieken 0-1, Stanic 1-1, Finley 3-6, Hannam 0-1). Rebounds – ICL 33 (Daugherty 9), CF 23 (Knutson 6, Hannam 6). Turnovers – ICL 18, CF 13. Total fouls – ICL 15, CF 13. Fouled out – CF (Finley). Technical fouls – None.