With the final seconds ticking off the clock, and her Lee’s Summit North Broncos’ team trailing by three points, senior guard Tiana Gipson cut loose with a gutsy 3-point shot from in front of her team’s bench.
“When the ball left my hand, I thought it was good,” Gipson said, battling her emotions, “but it was a little off. Oh well, I wanted the ball and felt like I could make that shot. It just didn’t go in the basket.”
Teammate Micaela Dickerson grabbed the rebound, and with a Liberty player draped over her, she attempted a desperation shot that, too, missed its mark and the Blue Jays punched their ticket to the state final four with a 44-41 Class 5 state quarterfinal win over the Broncos Saturday afternoon at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
The game had more than a few controversial moments, with the Broncos coming up on the wrong end of the officials’ decisions, but North coach Tricia Lillygren refused to make any excuses following a gut-wrenching end to a 21-6 season.
Late in the game, Liberty scored the game-winning basket on a transition layup by Jordan Johnson as the Broncos’ Alexis Griffin writhed in pain under her team’s basket.
Later, Johnson came up with a big defensive rebound, that allowed the Blue Jays to run time off the clock while the Broncos’ Aiyana Johnson was on the court following a collision with a Liberty player.
Ironically, that was the lone basket and the lone rebound rebound Jordan Johnson had in the game for the 22-7 Blue Jays.
“There were a couple of tough breaks in the game but they didn’t decide the outcome,” Lillygren said as her players departed the locker room to go out and meet family members and friends. “If they happen early, no one even remembers them.
“They happened to take place at the end, but like I said, they were just bad breaks.”
When asked specifically about Jordan Johnson’s basket, while Griffin was on the ground, the coach shook her head.
“That’s a judgment call,” Lillygren said. “An official can stop the play on the court if a player is injured, but they allowed play to continue and Liberty scored. There’s not much more to say.
“We might not have been in that situation had we done a better job hitting our free throws late in the game and putting some more points on the scoreboard.”
The Broncos scored just seven points in the fourth quarter and missed the front end of two one-and-ones that could have helped them cut the deficit to one or two points midway through the period.
The loss wiped out a stellar performance by 6-foot-3 senior center Aiyana Johnson, who scored all 14 Bronco points in the second quarter and finished with a team-high 19.
Liberty led 12-8 after one quarter and Johnson was on the bench with two fouls and no points.
“I knew I had to go back out in the second quarter and play smart basketball and help my team score some points,” said Johnson, who has signed to join her two sisters at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas. “Unfortunately, our season is over and I am going to miss playing with these girls so much.
“I feel truly blessed to have been a part of this program the past four years.”
Liberty’s Kaylee Newland, who scored 14 of her game-high 21 points in the second half, was the leading scorer for the Blue Jays. No other player for either team reached double digits in scoring.