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By Mike Forster
Did you get what you wanted for Christmas? Or did you come away disappointed?
Just like with kiddos' dreams of Santa, local hoop teams emerged from the holiday season in various states of bliss.
For the Liberty girls, it was all tinsel and candy canes. The Jeff Forest men got what you might call a mixed bag.
And the Liberty lads? They must have been on Santa's naughty list.
Minettes on winning track
In years past, Liberty's lasses would head to Blacksburg and return home empty-handed.
This year, the new-look Minettes showed they belong at that party.
Liberty Head Coach Mike Jones had stated that he liked to head to Blacksburg because it gave his team a chance to play some top competition.
Well, Coach, now you can count your crew among the tough competitors.
His Minettes picked up a pair of wins in convincing fashion: 64-49 over Auburn and 63-38 over Radford.
In particular, the win over Auburn is impressive. The Eagles are a 6-4 team with wins over schools such as Christiansburg and Blacksburg.
What was also impressive was the balance of the Liberty attack.
In the opening win over Auburn, Liberty standout Mikalah Jones tweaked her ankle in the early going.
Freshman Kasey Carr stepped right up, delivering 16 points. Jones recovered by the second half and put up 15.
The win over Auburn served as the debutante ball for Lauren Morgan. The freshman posted 17 points on the strength of four three pointers.
McKenzie Tibbs and Jocelyn Thomas flexed some muscle in the paint, as they combined for 22 points.
The only thing that could stop these Minettes was the weather. Due to threatening conditions, Liberty was forced to forego its final (against Washington and Lee), as nobody wanted the team stranded in Blacksburg.
Still, the wins improved the Minettes' record to 8-3, overall. That mark compares quite favorably with Liberty's total of five wins for all of last season.
"We looked like a team and had great movement," said assistant coach Allison Huddleston. "Now let's take this team back to the Seminole and have a good season."
Liberty came away from the Northside Tournament as glum as Ebenezer Scrooge at a charity ball.
The Minutemen suffered three stinging losses. First, they fell to the host Vikings, 70-41. In the second round, Liberty was bested by Lord Botetourt, 84-51. In the seventh-place contest, the M-Men were topped by Brookville, 68-59.
The rough streak left Liberty with an overall mark of 4-8.
What may be most troubling is the implications the Minutemen's performance may hold for the future. Both Northside and Brookville are fellow Division 3 schools in Region III. So, there's a good likelihood that any shot at regional glory will pass through their backyards.
The only good thing: Liberty's earlier-season win over Brookville counts in the Seminole standings. The loss to the Bees in the Northside tournament does not.
The top Liberty output in the tourney came from Ryan Hensley. Against Brookville, the senior netted 18 points. Against Lord Bot, Adam McKinney posted 10 points. Those were the only double-digit totals logged in the three games by Liberty, a team that is noted for its balanced offensive approach.
Cavs land a bronze
The lads of Jefferson Forest settled for third-place at the Liberty Holiday Tournament, hosted by William Campbell.
The Cavs faced eventual-champ Buckingham in the first round. Despite Tyler Lucy's 28 points and Jake Johnston's 20, JF fell to the Knights, 70-64.
Sam Price kicked in 11 points (including a trio of treys) and Kylin Cardwell dropped in 10. JF headed into the fourth quarter with a three-point lead, but couldn't sustain it in the end.
In the consolation, the Cavs went wild, beating Radolph-Henry, 93-77. It's not often you see local high school squads flirt with the 100-point mark. That's because most schools don't have a Johnston (30 points) or a Lucy (25) as Jeff Forest does.
By the way, Price continued his remarkable marksmanship as he nailed five three-pointers in this one.
At the start of the season, Cav Head Coach Paul Smith predicted that his team would put up some points. His team is making the coach into quite the soothsayer.
River vs. River
Staunton River played host to a doubleheader last Friday against old friend James River. The Lady Eagles were gracious in their yuletide hospitality, falling to the Lady Knights, 52-39.
The loss dropped River's record to 1-8, disappointing by the program's high standards.
One bright spot came in the form of Brie Holdren's 14 points. The senior seems to be shaking off the lingering effects of her shoulder injury.
The Staunton River men then played the role of chivalrous avengers. They crushed their James River colleagues, 63-33, building up a double-digit lead in the second quarter. The Rivermen then refused to take their collective foot off the gas, in earning their second win of the season.
Madisyn Viera amassed 20 points. The big guy showed a deft touch, pegging a quartet of treys to power his finest game of the season, to date.
Point guard Deshawn Martin kicked in a dozen points. Drew Phillips showed he can deliver from beyond the arc, nailing a pair of three-pointers.