Monday night the clash between Liberty and PikeView got off to a late start in Glen Daniel.
The fans that stayed were treated to a nail-biter that went down to the final horn.
On a night where both teams had to weather runs from the other side, the home-standing Raiders made the final run stand for a 58-54 win.
“We were supposed to have a game last Friday and didn’t play. I wasn’t feeling good Saturday, so we didn’t practice. Three days without practice definitely showed tonight,” Liberty head coach Chad Williams said. “I am thankful to get the win tonight with the way the season has been. Hopefully it is momentum for the rest of the week because Wednesday night is (Class A No. 3) Man and Friday is (Class AA No. 7) Wyoming East. It doesn’t get any easier for sure.”
The visitors led 29-28 at the break and pushed the advantage to eight points in the third period when the Raiders went nearly four minutes without scoring.
With his team trailing 38-30 the final four minutes became an Ethan Williams highlight reel.
“That is my other nephew that no one really knows right now. He is just a sophomore, so we are hoping he grows up to be as big as (all-stater) A.J. (Williams) and helps contribute in the same way,” Williams said. “He has done well this year. He has had his ups and downs, but overall, he has really handled the pressure.”
Two baskets and a pull-up 3-ball by the young sophomore cut the PikeView lead back to a point in less than a minute which electrified the home crowd.
Jared Vestal quelled the momentum for a split second with a score, but after a basket from senior Adam Drennen and free throw from Zach Bowman, the game was knotted at 40 points apiece.
Williams gave the Raiders their first lead since midway through the second quarter with a spot-up 3.
“He has had his struggles, but I told him, shooters shoot. Steph Curry doesn’t stop shooting when he is having a slump,” Williams explained. “You get a game like this where he hits two or three and it completely changes the momentum. You hope that builds confidence in the other guys in him.”
A pair of strong drives from Adam McGhee and Resean Simms gave Liberty its biggest lead of the contest at seven just over a minute into the final stanza.
Although the Panthers seemed down and possibly out, looks were deceiving.
Back-to-back scores from Dylan Blake and some pressure defense from PikeView sparked a 10-0 run for the Panthers.
“They are a good team and I am not taking anything away from them. The three days off and not practicing showed I felt. Our ball movement wasn’t as crisp as it normally was and we got sped up,” Williams said. “Every timeout I called I told them we were getting sped up for no reason. We are used to seeing that type of pressure from the teams we play. We would have two or three good possessions and then three bad possessions where they sped us up again.”
Another pull-up 3 from Williams with 3:20 to play gave Liberty the lead before Nathan Riffe answered with a triple on the next trip for a 54-52 lead for PikeView.
Those were the last points of the night for the visitors who went scoreless over the final 2:43 of the game.
Williams next 3-ball rimmed out, but on the rebound, Simms ripped the ball away from the Panther defender and was fouled on the way back up.
The frustration of the moment also ended with a technical foul called on the PikeView defender.
“It was definitely a game of runs and they made the last one. We just ran out of time. I felt like it was the combination of fatigue and the lack of focus,” PikeView head coach Colton Thompson said. “We have a young team that hasn’t been in that situation many times until the last week or two. They had a little bit of senior leadership that helped put them over the edge on that final run.”
Simms made one of his attempts before Williams stepped in to hit both of the technical free-throws for a 55-54 lead.
Williams finished with a game-high 22 points, while McGhee scored 13 and Drennen had 10. Jared Vestal led the Panthers with 16 and Riffe scored 13.
PV: 15 14 11 14 – 54
L: 14 14 15 15 – 58
Nathan Riffe 13, Kameron Lawson 6, Drew Damewood 5, Kaleb Dunn 2, David Thomas 1, Dylan Blake 8, Zach Rose 3, Jared Vestal 16. Totals: 20 9-21 54.
Adam McGhee 13, Adam Drennen 10, Ethan Williams 22, Zach Bowman 2, Resean Simms 6, Connor Cantley 5. Totals: 19 12-27 58.
3-pointers – PV: 5 (Riffe 3, Damewood, Vestal); L: 8 (Williams 5, McGhee 3).