February 21 – The Liberty Eagles Boys basketball team completed a remarkable regular season Tuesday with their 7th consecutive win, finishing a perfect 10-0 in Conference play.
The Eagles hosted Ft. Zumwalt South (12-12) in a game that met all expectations. The 2016-17 season has been a difficult one for Ft. Zumwalt South, but you wouldn’t have thought you were watching a .500 team on Tuesday night as the Bulldogs brought the physical, intense style of play GAC Central fans have been accustomed to seeing from coach Bill Friedel led teams.
The Eagles got off to an early strong start to only see E.J. Bellinger and Darius Thomas bring the Bulldogs right back. Jaylen Sims and Blake Stricker were a big part of the Eagles early success, leading the team to a 30-29 halftime lead.
The second half got off to a slow start until Jaylen Sims found Kaleb Overall on a give and go for a layup. Ft. Zumwalt South responded with a Drake Whaley corner three pointer to tie the game at 34 before Jaylen Sims answered with a 3 of his own. The teams would go punch, counter punch for the next several minutes with Chris Jordan knocking down a few free throws and Darius Thomas draining a wide open 3 pointer.
Overall makes a 3 point basket and Bellinger answers with a 17 foot jump shot of his own, as both team’s leading scorers start to assume a more prominent role in the game.
After a big 3 point basket by Jarrin McKeithen, the Eagles recaptured the lead 44 – 41 with less than a minute remaining in the quarter. EJ Bellinger would slice his way to the basket for the Bulldogs to another basket before Kaleb Overall ended the quarter with his second 3 pointer of the quarter. The Eagles, looking to complete a perfect record in Conference play led the Bulldogs 47-43 after three quarters.
It would only take a minute for the Bulldogs to even up the game. Darius Thomas demonstrated his speed and quickness getting into the lane for an easy bucket and then the Bulldogs threw a 2-2-1 three quarter court trap at the Eagles producing a turnover and Drake Whaley layup.
Henningsen would knock down another 3 in the few minutes, as would Overall. Bellinger kept the Bulldogs in the game with two more buckets of his own, Liberty led 56-51.
The Eagles would turn the ball over a few times allowing Jake Patton to get on the scoreboard for the Bulldogs and E.J. Bellinger to knock down a deep three pointer. Fortunately the Eagles were solid from the free throw line down the stretch with Overall, Stricker and McKeithen all making big shots from the charity stripe to secure a 62-61 Liberty victory.
The Eagles are now 19-6 on the season and will have their shot at a twenty win season Tuesday night when they play the winner of Mexico or Hannibal in the first round of District Tournament play. The game will be at 7pm at Liberty High School.