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Defense, free-throw shooting and hustle are nice. But they don't make up for poor shooting and a lack of rebounding.
Such was the case on the second day of the new year, when the Liberty hoopster lads found themselves on the short end of a 59-54 game at Heritage.
The Minutemen had a hard time penetrating the Heritage perimeter to effect. In a physical contest, the Pioneers improved to 1-0 in Seminole play (4-2, overall).
The loss was Liberty's sixth in its last seven contests. The good news? In spite of their overall mark of 3-8, the Minutemen are still in the Seminole hunt, standing 2-2 in district play.
The better news, of course, would have been the M-Men improving to 3-1 by beating the Pioneers. That outcome was certainly a strong possibility, as Liberty kept Heritage within striking distance throughout the game.
Even when the Minutemen went on a six-minute scoreless drought (over the last minute of the second quarter and the first five of the third quarter), they kept the Pioneers close.
Austin Porter, by the way, broke that drought when he nailed a 14-footer. Chris Sharrett then drilled a trio of free throws to make it a four-point Heritage lead.
The Minutemen even seized the edge, when Sharrett opened the fourth quarter with a three from the top of the arc and Porter followed up by intercepting a long Heritage inbounding pass to set the stage for his layup.
Liberty's last lead came halfway through the fourth when Sharrett drove the gut for a 47-45 advantage.
Pioneer Devin Jones, however, answered with a three pointer, and Jaylen Martin's conversion of a steal re-established Heritage's lead.
With time winding down and Heritage up by six, Liberty's Dajur Mobley hit a long, audacious three pointer. Mobley was nearly standing on the Liberty bench when he hit his bomb to make it 57-54, with 15 seconds remaining.
It was, alas, too little, too late as Heritage successfully broke the Liberty trap on the subsequent in-bounds.
Liberty did itself no favors in one key area: shooting from the field. While Liberty did connect on five three pointers, the Minutemen were able to sink only nine other baskets.
The scoring breakout for the M-Men went this way: 15 points from three-point land, 21 points from the charity stripe and 18 points on two pointers. It was if an invisible forcefield was positioned over the Liberty hoop; one which shifted to the other end of the court post-halftime.
On the positive side, the M-Men showed hustle from start to finish. Rucker Shipp, MJ Parker and Treon Brawley seemed comfortable rotating the point guard duties.
At times, some of the Minutemen seemed to be trying too hard, which resulted in some fast-paced turnovers.
Additionally, the M-Men played stellar defense and hit a very solid 75 percent of their free throws (21 of 28).
Porter and Sharrett inflicted the most damage. With his slashing drives into the teeth of the Heritage defense, Porter put up a hard-earned 16 points.
Sharrett showed himself a sharpshooter, connecting on a trio of treys in picking up 15 points.
"I thought we did a lot of really good things in the Heritage game," assessed Liberty Head Coach Jeff Monroe. "(We improved in a) lot of things that have been hurting us in the past few games, such as turnovers and poor rebounding. Hopefully it's a game we can build on."
Liberty had a power outage, though it had nothing to do with the any offensive output.
The Liberty gym experienced a partial electrical disruption Friday afternoon. The problem caused the Minettes to postpone their Friday evening showdown with Heritage. That game has not been rescheduled.
The Minutemen moved their scheduled Monday evening game against Amherst to Tuesday. Then the bitter weather nixed that plan.