The only way Fort Osage boys basketball coach Josh Wilson could have been more pleased with the way his team in the first half was if it was leading.
The Indians played superb defense in the first 16 minutes and only trailed Liberty 23-20 at halftime. But then the third quarter came, and Fort Osage got out of sync.
The Blue Jays outscored the Indians 20-6 in the fourth quarter thanks to some stout defense and a barrage of 3-point baskets, resulting in a 63-42 Fort Osage loss Friday at home.
“We played hard and tough in the first half,” Wilson said. “We were able to hang with them. We did what we know we could do.”
The good defense Fort Osage played in the first half didn’t carry over to the third quarter. After a Dez Griswold layup cut Liberty’s lead to one, the Blue Jays went on a 20-4 run, thanks to some transition points and a trio of 3-pointers from Liberty’s all-time leading scorer, Jalen Lewis. Liberty also had six points of turnovers in the period and went into the fourth up 42-26.
“We had four turnovers in a row when they went on that run,” Wilson said. “They had a bunch of threes. It was ridiculous.”
Fort Osage, by contrast, shot just 3 of 12 from the field and turned the ball over six times and shot just 27 percent in the entire second half.
It was just a struggle for the Indians to score the entire game as junior forward Ty Baker was the only Indian in double figures with 14. Wilson said the struggles were due to his players taking shots too quickly and not moving the ball around and getting a quality look.
“We weren’t ready for the shot when we took it and didn’t have any offensive rebounders in there,” Wilson said. “Nick Dye shot one, and it was really quick. We didn’t move the ball. I knew (Liberty) was going to go on a run. Were we going to be able to compose ourselves when we went down 12. And we weren’t (composed). We had guys going down the court and trying to get the big bucket, trying to be the hero.”
Liberty coach Roger Stirtz said his team played better defensively in the second half, which made it tougher for the Indians to score.
“Fort Osage played really well in the first half, they are going to be just fine this season,” Stirtz said. “In the second half, we guarded a little bit better and slowed down and guarded with more poise.”
In the fourth, Fort Osage never got closer than 16 points as Liberty constantly got to the free throw line and was getting quality looks in the paint in the final eight minutes.
Brock Matson led Liberty with 16 points and Lewis and Tavis Turner added 12. Griswold scored nine for the Indians.