Truman girls basketball coach Steve Cassity couldn’t have been prouder after watching the Patriots mostly shut down the third-ranked Class 5 girls basketball team in the state.
If only the Patriots’ offense could have matched their defense.
Held to single-digit scoring in all four quarters, Truman couldn’t answer when Liberty took control in the third quarter and pulled away for a 41-26 victory Monday night in a Suburban Large Seven contest at Liberty.
Liberty (11-0, 3-0 Large Seven) was held to its second-lowest point total of the season, Truman (9-3, 2-1) was held to its lowest by far. Struggling with the Blue Jays’ size in a mostly deliberate, half-court game, the Patriots made just 10 of 41 shots and one 3-pointer in 12 tries.
“Giving up 41 is actually pretty good against a team like Liberty,” Cassity said. “Our first-shot defense was pretty solid. Our problem was on offense.”
That problem started with a 2-of-11 first quarter, but Truman only trailed 6-5 after Liberty made just three shots. Liberty’s 5-foot-10 forwards Jillian Fleming and Katie Mihelic bothered the Patriots inside, but Fleming finished the game with seven points, well under her 14 points-per-game average.
“I thought we got some pretty good looks in the post and got some drives, we just didn’t finish,” Cassity said. “And against a team like Liberty you can’t leave shots in the paint on the boards. You’ve got to finish them when you get them.”
“They’re bigger than us, and that makes it tough at times,” Truman senior guard Deon Monroe said. “They knew just the thing to do to get us out of our game a little.”
Liberty found the spark it needed when senior point guard Olivia Nelson warmed up in the second quarter. Nelson drove and twisted her way to eight of her game-high 17 points in the second quarter, but Truman was still within 17-14 at the half.
But after Nelson popped a three during an 8-0 Liberty run opening the third quarter, the Blue Jays were in control. Liberty led 32-21 at the end of third quarter and pushed its lead to 16 in the fourth.
“Olivia hurt us,” Cassity said. “She made some spinning, whirling, really difficult shots. She stood up tonight and led them.”
Monroe and Jewel Hart led Truman with eight points apiece. Nelson was the only Blue Jay in double figures, and the ninth-ranked Patriots took some pride in that.
A little more offense could have made them more proud.
“The win would have felt better,” Monroe said. “But we can learn from our mistakes tonight, so it’s a win-win even if we didn’t win the game.”