ARGYLE — Faced with an early deficit at home, Rebekah Hand didn’t want Liberty Christian to take its first home loss of the season.
Trailing Fort Worth Nolan Catholic after the first quarter Friday night, Liberty got a spark from Hand’s 4-for-4 shooting in the second half, and the No. 5 Lady Warriors cruised the rest of the way for a 68-35 win in TAPPS Class 5A District 1 play.
“We usually start off slow, but then we really kick it in after coach pushes us to do better,” said Hand, who finished with a game-high 26 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the field. “The first quarter we were just playing lazy and we decided to play better.”
Liberty Christian (23-9, 10-3 district) had a scare in a close five-point win at Nolan Catholic (5-15, 5-10) in the first round of district play and a sluggish start in Friday's rematch saw the Lady Warriors trailing 11-10 after the opening quarter.
Hand, who also added nine rebounds, three assists and two steals, helped Liberty regain composure in the second quarter with four field goals, including a 3-pointer, and zero misses. Liberty's defense also settled in before the half to convert three takeaways into buckets en route to a 30-20 halftime advantage.
“We extended our defense and that’s what changed the game,” Liberty head coach Ken Burroughs said. “We started getting some turnovers and layups and that helped us take the win.”
Liberty ran away with it after the break, outscoring Nolan 38-15 in the second half. The Lady Warriors forced six more turnovers and held the Lady Vikings to just 7-for-27 shooting from the field in the second half.
Sophomore Hannah Hand, Rebekah’s twin sister, stole a pass and converted a three-point play with 2:20 left in the third to give Liberty a 20-point lead. Hannah Hand finished with 10 points, five rebounds and one steal.
Liberty sophomore Kendall Ellig helped seal the win with two physical buckets in the paint down the stretch on her way to 14 points, five rebounds, one block and one steal. Senior Alexis Abbot added a 3-pointer in the final period to finish with nine points and six rebounds.
Mary Hulcher and Shelby Ellis shouldered the scoring load for Nolan Catholic. Hulcher had 10 first-half points and finished with 16, while Ellis finished with 12 points.
Liberty will wrap up the regular season Tuesday against Bishop Lynch at home with a chance at finishing second in the district.
“Just to play like we have at home and to finish the way we did is great, but we’re prepared for Bishop Lynch in the finale,” Burroughs said.
Hand echoed her coach’s enthusiasm.
“We’re ready for this Lynch game,” Hand said. “We really want to finish the season undefeated at home and undefeated in the second half of district.”
Liberty Christian 75, Fort Worth Nolan 63
Stephen Ugochukwu established his presence in the paint in the second half to lead the Warriors to a win against the Vikings.
The win keeps Liberty Christian (10-20, 2-9) in contention with Nolan Catholic (9-19, 2-9) for the final playoff spot in TAPPS Class 5A District 1.
“We needed that game to stay alive in the playoffs,” Liberty head coach Frank Kornet said. “That was a big one.”
After making just two free throws before halftime, Ugochukwu went on to finish with 23 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in the win.
“He’s been big for us all season long,” Kornet said. “He averages a double-double and we go through Stephen. He gets us going.
Liberty led by only 3 going into the break, but jumped to a 43-32 advantage by the end of the third. The Vikings relied on 10 3-pointers to get back in the game, seven of which came from junior Pierce Braden, who finished with 22 points on the night.
Despite Nolan Catholic’s late push, the Warriors held a 32-31 edge in the final period to claim the win.
Liberty senior Grier Newlan scored 21 points, followed by senior Nick Decello’s 17.
Liberty will wrap up the regular season Tuesday against Dallas Bishop Lynch at home.
Liberty Christian 68, Fort Worth Nolan Catholic 35
Nolan Catholic (5-15, 5-10) — Mary Hulcher 16, Shelby Ellis 13, Ashton Norris 4, Kristen Maravilla 2.
Liberty Christian (23-9, 10-3) — Rebekah Hand 26, Kendall Ellig 14, Hannah Hand 10, Alexis Abbot 9, Rachel Rainwater 5, Tatum Barber 4.
Liberty Christian 75, Fort Worth Nolan Catholic 63
Nolan Catholic (9-19, 2-9) — Pierce Braden 22, Shay Killpack 16, Landon Russell 9, Chris Sarratt 5, Adam Moore 4, Jeremy LaGroue 3, Cole Seibert 2, Robert Osterman 2.
Liberty Christian (10-20, 2-9) — Stephen Ugochukwu 23, Grier Newlan 21, Nick Decello 17, Jacob Link 9, Mark Slack 5.