ARGYLE — In the fourth quarter of Liberty Christian’s TAAPS district game against Fort Worth Nolan Catholic, Warriors head coach Frank Kornet loosened the top button of his shirt and wriggled his tie slightly as the game tightened in the final minutes.
Liberty had built a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter, but the Vikings trimmed it to two points with less than a minute left.
When the clock ran out and both teams congratulated each other, Kornet and the Warriors could finally exhale.
Liberty held on for the 76-70 home victory against the Vikings on Tuesday night behind an outstanding performance by guard Wes Hill. Hill scored 17 of the team’s 24 fourth-quarter points and finished with a game-high 32 points.
Hill helped Liberty erase a four-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter and sealed the victory with key free throws in the game’s final minute.
“He’s been doing that for us since he’s been here,” Kornet said. “He thrives in the moment. He looks forward to that, and that’s what great players do.”
The Liberty point guard knocked down back-to-back buckets to tie the game at 56 in the fourth quarter. After Hill knocked down the second of those shots, Kornet stood on the sideline near halfcourt and yelled to his team, “This is where we win games.”
On that possession, Liberty forced a turnover and Hill came back down the court and nailed a 3-pointer to put Liberty ahead to stay.
Nolan Catholic’s offense, which had flowed smoothly all night behind the play of Lafayette-bound Michael Hoffman, sputtered in the fourth quarter. Hoffman, the 6-foot-9 senior post, scored the Vikings’ first points of the quarter with less than four minutes left.
By then, Liberty had reeled off 16 straight points and opened up a 12-point lead.
“We just didn’t run our offense and we got impatient,” Nolan Catholic head coach Steve Prudhomme said. “We can’t do that. We have to stick to what we do best.”
Luke Kornet, a 6-10 senior post, finished the game with 19 points and eight rebounds for the Warriors. Austin Freet also had 14 in the victory for Liberty (25-5, 4-1 district). The Warriors are in second place in TAPPS District 1-5A behind Plano John Paul II.
Hoffman led the Vikings (23-2, 3-2) with 28 points, while Michael Sarrat had 16 points and Landon Russell added 15.
Liberty Christian 64, Fort Worth Nolan 42
There were three freshmen in the starting lineup for Liberty, but it was senior RayVon Christian who helped the Warriors pick up the key win at home.
Christian led all scorers with 25 points as Liberty defeated the Lady Vikings.
Christian helped the Lady Warriors jump out to a big lead and helped her team play to one of their biggest strengths by forcing turnovers and scoring in transition.
“She did a very good job tonight,” Liberty head coach Ken Burroughs said of the senior. “She demanded the ball, she got the ball, she ran the floor. That’s one of our strengths. When we don’t do that [running the floor], it really hurts us.”
Freshman Sydney Goodson had 15 points and freshman Rebekah Hand added nine points in the victory.
Burroughs said on most nights, Kendall Ellig rounds out the quartet of freshman in Liberty’s starting lineup. He said Ellig was ill, so he had her come off the bench. Ellig finished the game with six points.
The Lady Warriors (16-12, 5-1 district) essentially sealed the outcome in the game’s two middle quarters.
In the second quarter, Nolan was held to three points and Liberty was well in command of the game.
Following a turnover and an ensuing layup by Christian to push Liberty’s lead to 28 points, Nolan Catholic head coach Steve Barth burned his final full timeout with 42.4 seconds left in the first half and left the Lady Vikings with two 30-second timeouts for the rest of the game.
When they came out of the timeout, the Lady Vikings turned the ball over once again.
The second and third quarters sealed the victory for the Lady Warriors. Liberty outscored Nolan Catholic 37-16 during that stretch, allowing the home team to build a 25-point lead after three quarters and cruised in the game’s final eight minutes.
Guard Sadie Mahnesmith had 20 points to lead the Lady Vikings (10-13, 1-5).
Burroughs said that even with the youth on the team, he is fond of this year’s squad as it learns on the job.
“I like this group a lot,” Burroughs said.“They work hard, they play hard. We make mistakes, but we’re making them trying to make things happen.”
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
LIBERTY CHRISTIAN 76, FORT WORTH NOLAN CATHOLIC 70
Nolan Catholic – Michael Hoffman 28, Michael Sarrat 16, Landon Russell 15, Chris Fiebig 5, Jon Werline 4, Ryan Erhardt 2.
Liberty – Wes Hill 32, Luke Kornet 19, Austin Freet 14, Jacob Santos 8, Grier Newlan 3.
LIBERTY CHRISTIAN 64, FORT WORTH NOLAN CATHOLIC 42
Nolan Catholic – Sadie Mahnesmith 20, Mary Hulcher 10, Shelby Ellis 6, Megan Eckelbarger 4, Gretchen Cottingham 2.
Liberty– RayVon Christian 25, Sydney Goodson 15, Rebekah Hand 9, Hannah Hand 7, Kendall Ellig 6, Ali Gardner 2.