By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
After dominating the first quarter, the Redskins squandered a 13-point lead and trailed by as many as 10 before a late rally fell short, and Dodge City escaped the Big House with a 54-52 win.
Liberal broke an early 3-3 tie with a 15-2 run, and Hayden Coker scored 10 of those by receiving passes through the Red Demon zone.
But Coker only scored three points the rest of the game as the Dodge City zone eliminated Liberal’s advantage in the paint.
After dominating the first quarter, the Redskins gave Dodge City a chance to come back at the free throw line in the second. Dodge City attempted 16 free throws in the quarter and made 10 of them. Liberal’s offense slowed down against the Red Demon zone, and by halftime Liberal’s lead was slashed to three, 27-24.
That lead disappeared quickly as the Redskins continued to collapse in the third quarter.
Dodge City nailed three three-pointers, and the Redskins struggled to find a way to challenge the zone.
Dodge City dominated the eight minutes, and Liberal faced a 43-32 deficit heading in to the fourth quarter.
Little changed in the first four minutes of the final quarter until Cade Hinkle hit back-to-back three-pointers to cut Dodge City’s lead to 49-44 with 4:00 to play.
Dodge stretched the lead back to eight with 3:11 to play, but Jared Hasik attacked the lane for a basket, and Britton Abbott converted a three-point play after being fouled on a drive, and the Red Demon lead was down to three, 52-49.
After a Red Demon free throw, Coker cut the lead to two with a put-back bucket with 1:09 to play, and after a missed free throw by Dodge, the Redskins had a chance to tie when Abbott was fouled with 42.3 seconds remaining in the game.
Abbott made the first shot but missed the second, and the Red Demons rebounded and again missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Liberal turned the ball over, and another missed front end of a one-and-one gave the Redskins another chance with 15.4 seconds. A missed shot for the third time gave the Redskins another chance to take the lead, but another missed shot forced another Redskin foul with 3.3 seconds to play.
This time, Dodge City made one free throw but missed the second. Abbott streaked up the court and launched a desperation three at the buzzer, but the shot fell short, and Liberal lost 54-52.
Coker led the Redskins with 13 points, Hasik scored 10, and Abbot had nine.
The Redskins will travel to Guymon Tuesday and will return to the Big House Friday for homecoming against Hays.