Class A number three Man overcame a sluggish first quarter and a slow second quarter start before heating up in the final minutes of the first half, going on a 12-0 run to end the half and defeat Liberty (Raleigh) 82-53 Wednesday night at Man Memorial Fieldhouse.
“Overall, I can’t complain other than a little sloppy first quarter and we were a little tight in the second quarter until the end,” Man coach TJ Blevins said. “We went on a little run in the second quarter, and I challenged them after that.”
Man jumped out to an 11-4 lead and led 17-10 with 1:42 to play in the first quarter before Liberty closed the quarter on a 7-0 run to the tie the game at 17.
The Raiders run would extend to nine points as Adam McGhee scored on a layup with 7:28 remaining in the first half to give the Raiders their first lead at 19-17.
Trailing 26-25 with 1:55 to play in the first half, senior Caleb Blevins converted a 3-point play to ignite a 12-0 run to close the half and give Man a 37-26 lead at halftime.
Liberty would not score again until the 5:30 mark of the third quarter when Conner Cantley connected on a 14-foot jumper ending a 22-0 Man run that spanned 4:25 between the end of the first half and start of the third quarter.
Once the third quarter ended, Man had outscored Liberty 33-11 in the quarter and led 70-37 after three complete quarters.
When the dust settled, the Hillbillies had outscored the Raiders 45-11 over a span of 9:55.
“We explain to then every night that the third quarter is the most important time to come out,” Blevins said. “We switched up defenses and I switched to a full court press and trap, and I think that was the difference in the game.”
Liberty was able to outscore Man 16-12 in the final quarter. The Raiders outscored the Hillbillies 33-29 in the first and fourth quarters and shot 15-of-32 from the field in those quarters, however, they were outscored 53-20 in the second and third quarters and shot 8-of-29 from the field.
“The first quarter was good and that second quarter was as well until the last minute and half,” Liberty coach Chad Williams said. “We just had a mental breakdown, and they took advantage of it.”
The Hillbillies connected on 19-of-34 attempts and were 5-of-14 from 3-point range in the second and third quarters. Man was 8-of-16 from the field in the second quarter while holding Liberty to 3-of-12 shooting. The Hillbillies were 11-of-18 from the field and 4-of-8 from 3 in the third quarter and held Liberty to a 5-for-17 mark in the frame.
“We didn’t come out ready to play the third quarter, didn’t match the intensity, and when you have five guys on the floor shooting like Man was tonight there is not a lot you can do,” Williams said. “They caught fire and they played great defense.”
Caleb Blevins led Man with 24 points while Trey Brown added 20. Aden Martin had 13 and Jeremiah Harless 11 to give the Hillbillies four players in double figures.
We finally got Caleb to start taking the ball to basket and he started finishing real well tonight, so I was pleased with that,” Blevins said. “Every night the scoring is so balanced.”
With the outcome little in doubt, the only question was whether or not Harless would be able to continue his double-double streak. Harless had nine points until a steal and two-handed slam dunk gave him 11 points with 5:27 to play.
The dunk was the capper to an impressive night for Harless, who had just four first half points, as he hauled down 21 rebounds for his seventh consecutive double-double.
Harless, who also dished out four assists, block three shots, had two steals and drew a charge, has recorded eight double digit rebounding games with six of the eight games resulting in 14-or-more rebounds this season.
“Nothing surprises me anymore with that cat. He was struggling the first half and I could tell the energy was down because he wasn’t scoring,” Blevins said. “I told him to just bring positive energy and promised him that it would work in the second half and even if he didn’t score a point to get the rebounds.”
Adam Drennen led Liberty with 12 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Drennen also blocked four shots, had four steals and two assists. Zach Bowman, Cantley and McGhee each had 11 points for the Raiders.
Liberty, who had won three of its last four games entering Wednesday night, gave up a season-high 82 points falls to 5-8 and is scheduled to host Independence Friday night.
“We match up well with them, but we just got to keep our mind right for four quarters,” Williams said. “We have played fairly decent; we defend well and don’t play anything other than man-to-man defense, but when you lose your mind a minute here or a minute there that adds up quick against really good teams.”
Man held Liberty to 36 percent shooting while turning the Raiders over 22 times. The Hillbillies hit 47 percent of its shots and dished out 18 assists on 30 made baskets, including nine from Jordan Adams.
Man has won 10 straight home games and improved to 5-0 at home this season. The Hillbillies have won eight straight games and improved to 12-2 on the season.
“I told them to get on this train and keep riding it,” Blevins said. “We are undefeated at home; we are protecting our home court and anytime you do that you are going to have a good season.”
Man will look to make it nine in a row when they visit Class AA No. 10 Wyoming East on Tuesday. The Hillbillies have never won at Wyoming East since the school opened for the 1998-99 school year.
Man has also never won at Westside and the last time Man won in Wyoming County was during the 2000-01 season when the Hillbillies won at Oceana, 69-67, on Jan. 30, 2001.
“Last year and this year we continue to make history,” Blevins said. “I didn’t know that Monday night was the first time in 16 years that Man won at Tug Valley.”
No. 3 Man 82, Liberty (Raleigh) 53
Liberty (Raleigh) (5-8)
Adam Drennen 5-19 2-4 12, Zach Bowman 5-11 0-0 11, Adam McGhee 5-11 1-4 11, Conner Cantley 5-9 1-2 11, Resean Simms 2-9 0-0 4, Ethan Williams 1-3 2-2 4, Jadon Acord 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 23-63 6-12 53.
Caleb Blevins 8-21 5-8 24, Trey Brown 7-12 0-0 20, Aden Martin 4-7 4-4 13, Jeremiah Harless 5-9 1-2 11, Jordan Adams 2-2 1-1 5, Brady Hall-Montgomery 2-3 0-0 4, Andrew Cozart 1-3 0-0 2,
James Scites 1-2 0-0 2, Jacob Walls 0-2 1-2 1, Colton Miller 0-2 0-0 0.
Totals: 30-63 12-17 82.
Liberty (Raleigh) 17 9 11 16- 53
Man 17 20 33 12- 82
3-point field goals- Liberty (Raleigh) 1-9 (Drennen 0-1, Bowman 1-3, McGhee 0-1, Cantley 0-2, Simms 0-1, Williams 0-1), Man 10-27 (Blevins 3-12, Brown 6-10, Martin 1-2, Cozart 0-2, Walls 0-1). Rebounds- Liberty (Raleigh) 34 (Drennen 12), Man 37 (Harless 21). Assists- Liberty (Raleigh) 6 (McGhee 3), Man 18 (Adams 9). Totals fouls- Liberty (Raleigh) 15, Man 11.