Don’t look now, but the girls basketball landscape in District 9-5A took an interesting turn Tuesday night with first-place Liberty getting taken down for the first time this season.
Prior to this week, the Lady Redhawks were soaring high with a flawless 13-0 district record, but that all changed in a rematch with red-hot Memorial.
The Lady Warriors grabbed on to a quick 4-3 lead in the early moments and never squandered it en route to a 32-29 win for a ninth consecutive victory to improve to 12-2 and just one game back from Liberty.
“Liberty is notoriously the team everybody is trying to beat, and our kids really wanted it tonight and played hard,” said Rochelle Vaughn, Memorial head coach. “We got up by double digits and then our youth showed up. We started letting the pressure get to us instead of closing out. Shout out to Liberty for fighting back, but I thought we played, for the most part, a good basketball game against a great program.”
Although Memorial led by as many as 11 points late in the third quarter, the long ball became a major key in Liberty’s late-game comeback efforts with 3-pointers from sophomore Ashley Anderson and junior Kayla Pernis, each assisted by sophomore Jazzy Owens-Barnett, to cut the Memorial lead to just five at 32-27.
Desperately needing a humongous defensive play in the final minute, Liberty got just that with a dazzling steal and score in transition by Owens-Barnett before the Lady Warriors then turned the ball over on a five-second inbound violation with just a few seconds remaining.
This gave the Lady Redhawks one last hope to force overtime with a shot from deep, and in that moment, Vaughn did not want her to team to foul to prevent a 3-point attempt, but rather to just stick with the defensive game plan and see what happens.
“We were playing too well defensively and we were going to guard their 3-point shooters,” she said. “If they made a tough shot then we were going to play another five minutes.”
Girls FINAL: Frisco Memorial 32, Frisco Liberty 29. Liberty now falls to 13-1 in district and Memorial improves to 12-2. pic.twitter.com/wOQmecytFo— Bryan Murphy (@BryanMurphy_) January 29, 2020
Liberty did in fact get a tremendous look from beyond the arc as the buzzer sounded, but Owens-Barnett’s shot hit the back of the rim, as Memorial held on for what Vaughn pegged as her program’s biggest win yet.
This matchup not only featured the top two teams in the district, but it also showcased arguably the two front runners for district MVP in Liberty’s Owens-Barnett and Memorial sophomore Jasmyn Lott.
Although Owens-Barnett had a fine outing with a team-high nine points and a handful of key plays on both ends of the floor in the fourth quarter, Lott stole the show while willing her team to victory.
The sophomore sensation outscored the Lady Redhawks, 6-3, after one quarter and did not let up en route to a 17-point performance and a key basket late to give the Lady Warriors a bit of a cushion with a 31-24 advantage.
Meanwhile, Liberty’s star sophomore shot just 3-of-11 from the field and much of that had to do with the stellar defense of Lott all night long.
“We put [Lott] on [Owens-Barnett] most of the game,” Vaughn said. “We challenged her in guarding one of the best players in the district because she’s also one of the best players in the district. Obviously, we helped with some traps and other stuff, but she was up for the challenge and our team executed a great game plan against a great, young talent.”
Despite owning a commanding 10-3 lead over Liberty after the first quarter of play, the Lady Redhawks came roaring back in the second stanza with a 9-2 run to knot things up at 12 apiece behind a pair of clutch makes from sophomore Zoe Junior.
However, Lott then sparked a 7-2 run to close out the half, including a dazzling and-one in the lane to send the Lady Warriors into the locker room up 19-14.
Liberty was unable to chip away at the deficit in the third, largely in part to many of Memorial’s other standouts, such as junior Alexis Darce knocking down a pair of triples to give Vaughn’s crew a commanding 11-point lead late in the quarter.
“We were trying to feed the ball inside coming out of the half and they were doing a great job of collapsing,” Vaughn said. “We told [Lott] to find our outside shooters and they were huge tonight in hitting those.”