By EARL WATT
• Daily Leader
Maize South might be a first-year CLass 4A high school, but the Lady Mavericks came to the Big House Friday night and looked like a seasoned group of veterans in the first quarter.
Good thing Kayla Payton was ready to answer the challenge. Payton hit three three pointers in the first quarter to keep pace with the Lady Mavericks. Liberal was able to weather the early storm and turn a 32-31 halftime tussle into a 61-43 rout.
The win extended Liberal’s home court streak to 19. Liberal has not lost at home in two years.
“It was ugly in the first half,” Liberal coach Shane Stout said. “Offensively we were fine, but defensively, that was terrible. It was our worst effort of the season.”
After jumping out to a 6-0 lead, the Lady Redskins could not shake the Lady Mavs. Maize South was a perfect five for five from the free throw line in the first quarter, hit two three pointers and big post Jody Larson scored eight points to help the Lady Mavericks keep pace with the Lady Redskins.
Maize South tried to neutralize Liberal scoring threat Justice Norah by packing the defense inside, but Payton made them pay with three-point shots. Payton scored 13 of Liberal’s 21 first quarter points in what appeared to be a shootout.
But both defenses tightened up in the second quarter
“Teams have being keying on Justice,” Stout said. “They have been running a help defense and double teams on her. But that just opens up opportunities for her teammates.”
Norah fought through the double teams and packed zone defense to score eight in the first half, and after Maize South coach Mike Domnick saw the Lady Redskins defeating his zone early in the second half, he abandoned it for a man defense.
And the Lady Redskins took advantage.
“We attacked the basket well when they switched to man,” Stout said.
Payton continued her hot hand in the second half, knocking down two more threes in the fourth quarter as part of her game high 20 points.
Liberal’s defense buckled down in the second half, holding the Lady Mavs to only 12 second half points. The Lady Redskins outscored Maize South 29-12 in the second half.
“Sherika (Sanchez) had a great game defensively,” Stout said. “She crashed the boards, and that helped us a lot. It was her best game of the year.”
Payton’s 20 was followed by Norah’s 16, and Malyssa Williams scored 11. Kayla Varnes scored five, Destiny Hall had four, Megan Campbell scored two, and Sanchez had a point.
Liberal will play in the Orange and Black Classic Thursday at Colby
The Lady Redskins will open with McCook, Neb.