Connolly shoots

Hilltop’s Kacy Connolly (left) shoots the ball while Liberty Center’s Peyton Armey defends during Monday’s nonconference girls basketball game at Liberty Center High School.

LIBERTY CENTER — Hilltop rallied from a 10-point deficit after the first quarter and posted a 43-39 win over Liberty Center in a nonconference girls basketball game on Monday in The Jungle at Liberty Center High School.

“When you come here to play at Liberty Center you know the game is going to be physical,” Hilltop coach Troy Grime said. “You have to go with it, you can’t just be upset with the referees. They let things go more than we are used to, but I told the girls we have to get our composure and have self discipline.”

The Cadets (1-1) trailed 18-6 after the Tigers (1-1) scored the opening bucket of the second period, but clawed back in a very physical game by holding Liberty Center scoreless over the final seven minutes of the first half.

Kailey Blanton scored a pair of buckets and had an assist for the Tigers during a key 9-0 run that was capped by a 3-point play from Alyssa Giesige.

“We got off to a good start,” Liberty Center coach Tim Davis said. “Then we lost some of that energy in our defense. They set up in that 2-3 zone and we struggled with that. We were O-for-3s and were not good from the foul line either. That is just a lack of experience.”

Hilltop trailed 18-15 at intermission after a 9-0 run over the final four minutes of the second quarter. A pair of free throws by Libbie Baker with 4:38 remaining in the third period gave the Cadets their first lead since early in the opening canto.

The teams traded the lead the rest of the third quarter, with Hilltop taking a 30-28 lead into the final period after a putback by Leanna Baker in the final minute of the stanza.

Blanton tied the game with a basket in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, but Alex Horton hit a 3-pointer for the Cadets on the ensuing possession.

The Tigers battled to tie the game at 35 after a steal and lay-up by Kate Mohler with 4:30 remaining, but Jayma Bailey sank another 3 for Hilltop with just under three minutes left on the clock to give the Cadets the lead for good.

“Those 3s by Alex and Jayma were huge,” Grime said. “They were packing it in on our big girls so we have to make those kinds of shots.”

Leanna Baker, who played most of the fourth quarter with four fouls, scored on an inbound play a minute later for a 40-35 lead, but the Tigers made a final run.

“She played well with four fouls, and that is kudos to her,” Grime said.

A pair of free throws, after a technical foul, by Mohler cut the lead to 40-37 and Peyton Armey scored off an assist by Blanton to pull the Tigers within a point with 42 seconds remaining.

Liberty Center had an offensive possession to take the lead, but a turnover — one of the Tigers’ 25 miscues in the game — gave the ball to Hilltop.

Libbie Baker sank one of two intentional foul shots and Bailey sank two more free throws with less than a second on the clock to seal the win.

“We want to get out in passing lanes, especially against the zone press,” Davis said. “I thought we did that early and we had them on the ropes. They (Hilltop) did a nice job and made an adjustment to that.”

Libbie Baker led Hilltop, which was 10 of 12 from the foul line, with 11 points, while Leanna Baker and Bailey each added 10 points.

“This was a huge win for the girls,” Grime said. “A couple of years ago we wouldn’t have pulled a game like this out.”

Liberty Center, which was 9 of 18 from the free-throw line and did not make a 3-pointer, was paced by Giesige and Emerson Gray with 8 points each. Blanton added 7 points.

“We were O for 3s on Friday, too,” Davis said. “We are just pressing. I told the girls to make sure to get their heads right because we are not going to go O for the season (in 3s). We got to get better inside with our ball movement to help set up those (outside) shots.”

Hilltop 43, Liberty Center 39

Hilltop 6 9 15 13 — 43

LC 16 2 10 11 — 39

Hilltop: Horton 0 1 0 3, La. Baker 2 0 3 7, Li. Baker 3 0 5 11, Bailey 1 2 2 10, Connolly 1 0 0 2, Le. Baker 5 0 0 10. Totals: 12 3 10 43.

Liberty Center: Giesige 3 0 2 8, Gray 3 0 2 8, Armey 2 0 0 4, K. Mohler 1 0 2 4, H. Mohler 1 0 1 3, Gerken 1 0 1 3, Barrett 1 0 0 2, Blanton 3 0 1 7. Totals: 15 0 9 39.

E-mail comments to jeffr@northwestsignal.net.

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