After putting together one of the best regular seasons in North Penn-Liberty Mounties basketball history, the Mounties (20-6) season came to an abrupt finish in a first-round State playoff matchup with the Mount Calvary Christian (26-2) basketball team in a 63-57 loss.
The Mounties were able to come out of the gates strong in the contest, which is something they struggled with in the NTL Showdown and the District playoffs, and darted out to a 12-11 lead in the early goings of the contest.
In the second, Cavalry put together a strong run that saw their one-point deficit transform into a five-point halftime lead after holding the Mounties to just seven second quarter points. The Mounties once again saw themselves in a hole heading into halftime with the score 24-19.
In the second half, it looked like the Cavalry team could bury Liberty early, as they struck first on a three-point field goal to open up the scoring and after splitting free throws found themselves up by a score of 28-19 early in the third quarter.
After a made two-point shot by the Mounties, Cavalry went on a big 7-0 run and extended the lead to 35-21. Liberty struck back with a run of their own, and went on a 12-2 run of their own to end the quarter and get themselves right back in the thick of things heading into the fourth after chipping the once 14-point lead down to just five heading into the final quarter of play with their season on the line.
Both teams offenses exploded in the fourth quarter, and despite Liberty amassing an incredible 26-point fourth quarter that would have been enough to top almost any team in a period, Cavalry came out firing as well and outscored Liberty with 27 points to take a first-round victory and end the Liberty boys basketball season.
Despite the loss, the Liberty team put together a season to remember winning 20 games and making it all the way to the State playoffs.
Liberty will return all but one starter next season and also return possibly the best bench player in the NTL in Colton Litzelman. Litzelman scored 16 points in the effort to go along with 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals. His production has been invaluable to Liberty all season long.
“Colton will move right into a starting role next season, and could have started all season this year. He will have big shoes to fill in replacing Duncan. But, his work ethic is probably the best on the team and he spends hours looking at scouting film on every team we play. So, I know 100% he will be ready for a standout senior year and will be a great leader on the court,” Coach Litzelman commented on the junior star for the Liberty basketball team.
Spencer also capped off his junior season with a strong performance against one of the top teams in the entire state, as he closed the season out with a 19 points, two rebound, six assist and one steal performance for the Mounties.
With all of his success as a three-year starter, coach Litzelman expects Spencer to take the next leap in perfecting his game and it starts by recognizing how defenses have adjusted him throughout this season.
“Noah now has to realize everyone will try to double-team him and would rather play zone against him. So he has to develop a mid-range game to go with his outside shooting and dribble penetration moves. He has to gain more confidence in himself and be a team leader on the court, during games, practices and off the court. Noah’s athletic potential means he definitely will be better next season,” Litzelman commented on what is needed from Spencer this off-season in order to make the jump to the elite player category.
Another returning player that’s growth is pivotal to the continued success of the program is none other than six foot seven junior center Brandon Thompson who posted another gaudy statline in his final game of the season coming up just two points and three blocks short of a triple-double as he posted eight points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks on the night. The next step for Thompson to become a premier player in the league is to develop an elite postgame to go along with his overwhelming size and ability on the defensive side of the court.
“Brandon had an outstanding year, especially on the defensive end. This off season, I would like to see him develop a couple go to post moves. If he can get a favorite post move down and then a counter move when teams try to stop his first move the amount of points he could put up next year could be immense. He has the potential to average a double-double for the season next year, that will be a goal I have for him and I hope he has for himself,” Coach Litzelman stated.
With so many returning players for Liberty they also have some key losses that they will need to adjust to as they look to go back-to-back with consecutive NTL Division 2 titles. Duncan (Zeafla) and Sam (Shedden) were outstanding leaders the entire season, both on and off the court. The program’s turn-around started with them in sixth grade, and they have been dedicated and hard-working since then. They have set a pretty high bar for the younger players to live up to and I couldn’t be more proud of them for doing so. They will both be missed greatly,” Coach Litzelman said.
With losing the top NTL shooter in Zeafla and one of the best hustle player and unsung heroes of the team in Shedden, Liberty still will have the fire-power to compete with the best teams, but will need to look at new ways to be successful without a premier outside shooter to spread the floor.
“Losing Duncan is really going to hurt, the only thing that makes it not so hard is the outstanding production Colton gave us this year. He will not be able to replace Duncan, he will have to learn to create his own role and do the things he does well. The challenge next year will be to do something that has never been done here before. That is repeat as league champions and qualify for States two years in a row. In order to be considered one of the best groups of basketball players to go through this school, they have to do something that has never been done. I believe in all of these boys, their dedication and desire to achieve these goals. And that process will start in about two weeks,” Litzelman commented on the troubles of replacing such an intrical part of their team.
Another notable accomplishment for Liberty should be the success and leadership coach Litzelman has shown all season long with such a young team. Litzelman has been the fire from the bench all season long and has brought a struggling program back from the bottom of the NTL standings, to one that looks to be the favorite for an NTL Division 2 Championship next week.
Coach Litzelman has racked up the accomplishments this season and against Addison earlier this year racked up his 100th career win and now sits with 112 career wins and the Liberty basketball staff should be heavily considered as the Coaching Staff of the Year for their turnaround from a 13-11 season to an incredible 20-6 season with a trip to the State playoffs.
With the season at an end, the Liberty basketball team has their eyes on the prize as they will be back to the grind in the gym soon to not only try and build an all-time great Liberty team next season with back-to-back Division 2 titles, but also to possibly hang a District Championship banner in their gym.