It had been 10 days since Liberty last took the court.
Its hot start would’ve indicated otherwise.
The Raiders jumped out to an 18-8 lead, holding off a Mount View rally for a 57-53 win Wednesday night in the New River CTC Invitational at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
Led by 25 points from Adam Drennen, the Raiders were efficient inside the arc, making 20 of their 40 field goal attempts.
“We have the capability to shoot from deep but we just came back from the 10-day layoff with two full practices,” Liberty coach Chad Williams said. “Shooting here is harder than shooting in your normal gym so I told the boys to just play with the feel. If they felt like the shots were falling then go for it and for a change they actually listened.”
While the Raiders got to the rack in the opening quarter the Golden Knights settled for the long ball, hoisting six 3-pointers in the opening frame and coming up empty on all of them. It led to a 16-8 advantage for the Raiders after a quarter.
“We thought we settled but we weren’t running any offense,” Mount View coach Gary Brown said. “Even when we are we’re cutting in slow motion. They played a matchup zone but if you’re cutting and moving you’re going to get gaps in that matchup and basically you’re going to get them in man situations. We just stood around and watched. That was our biggest problem offensively.”
The tide shifted in the second quarter.
The Golden Knights converted on two of their four 3-point attempts but more importantly converted on six of their eight attempts inside the arc, wearing on the Raiders. By the time the halftime buzzer sounded the game was knotted at 26.
“Our conditioning was huge there,” Williams said. “I probably would’ve liked to have subbed more but we knew the later we got in the game the worse it was going to get and it was already bad in the second quarter. I thought we might make a sub here and do the best we could to go for halftime.”
The game remained tight throughout the third quarter with a layup from Drennen giving the Raiders the edge heading into the fourth.
Still the golden Knights had a run in them in an attempt to put the game away.
A layup form Tony Bailey, a jumper from Justin Haggerty followed by a pair of free throws from Jaylen Hall made it a 42-38 in favor of Mount View.
Drennen again had the answer, scoring five straight to put his team back on top.
“I’ve always told him that when he decided to play physical he’d be a walking double-double,” Williams said of Drennen. “He has such a quick release and knows where he’s at around the basket at all times. If we get it to him it’s going to fall for him. The first four games he was struggling and I think a lot of it was having the feeling he has to carry us with A.J. (Williams) out. I told him he needs to lead us but doesn’t have to carry us. Work the ball inside and then back out and make the other guys carry some weight and they do. But he’s the go-to guy.”
The Liberty lead eventually expanded to five on a pair of free throws from Adam McGhee but a final gasp from the Golden Knights tied the game at 53. With an opportunity to take the lead, Bailey’s shot was blocked by Liberty and a pair of free throws from McGhee and Drennen closed the game.
On the evening the Raiders were 16 of 20 from the line for an 80 percent clip, easing some concerns Williams had coming into the game.
“I was worried about the free throws,”Williams said. “That was probably the biggest thing for me.We’ve struggled from the line and spent probably an hour yesterday working on nothing but free throws and it paid off today. It wouldn’t have been the same outcome without the free throws for sure.”
MV: 8 18 10 17 – 53
L: 16 10 12 19 – 57
Tony Bailey 14, Kris Jackson 2, Justin Haggarty 15, Jalen Hall 4, Malaki Bishop 6, Thomas Bell 12
Adam Drennen 25, Adam McGhee 15, Conner Cantley 8, Zach Bowman 3, Resean Simms 6
3-point goals – L: 1 (Cantley); MV: 5 (Bailey 1, Haggerty 3, Bishop 1)