By EARL WATT
• Daily Leader
LIBERAL--Liberal weathered an early storm of threes by Perryton Friday night in the Big House and poured in a few of their own in the second half to knock off the Rangers 67-46.
Liberal ran away with the game in the second half, but the Rangers kept it close with the long ball until halftime.
“They hit some threes in the first half, and we had 12 turnovers in the first half, too,” Liberal coach Drew Gruver said. “In the second half we made better decisions.”
Two early threes gave the Rangers an 8-5 lead, but three straight baskets by Jade Cathey including an old-fashioned three-point play put the Redskins up 12-8.
Kowan Russell added two free throws, but the Rangers connected on another three-pointer as time expired in the quarter to keep it close, 14-11.
Liberal built a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter, and Russell got above a Perryton shooter to reject a shot attempt with authority, knocking the blocked ball into the lap of court security personnel Sandy Baker.
But the Rangers responded with two threes and two inside shots, and by halftime the Rangers were within four of the Redskins, 30-26.
But guard Justin Andrade proved that the Rangers weren’t the only players that could hit from outside. Andrade hit three long balls in the third quarter that was dominated by Liberal to put the game virtually out of reach.
“We were anxious in the first half,” Andrade said. “We’re still a young team, and we had trouble focusing early in the game. Someone had to step up, and I started to go with it.”
Andrade’s 11 third quarter points helped push the Redskins to a 53-37 lead.
The Redskins played a large part of the second half without Cathey who was called for his third foul mid-way through the third quarter. He didn’t return until four minutes remained in the game.
And when he did, he joined Tyson Deaton and Bryce Johnson in dominating the paint to close out the game by simply going over the top of the smaller Rangers. The result was a 67-46 final.
Cathey led the Redskins with 19 points followed by 15 from Andrade, 13 from Deaton, and eight each from Russell and Johnson. Kedrick Eyle scored four.
“The bench did a good job when Cathey got two quick fouls in the third,” Gruver said. “We have to learn to play without him. As the season goes along, it’s going to happen more and more. But when we play together, good things happen.”
The Redskins (5-1) will get a week off before returning after Christmas to prepare for the Jan. 8 contest at Hays to open the Western Athletic Conference schedule.
Hays is currently ranked fourth in Class 5A while the Redskins are in the others receiving votes category.
“Hays is on a roll,” Gruver said. “We’ll see how good we are Jan. 8.”