TROY — In another tough matchup, the North Penn-Liberty Mounties basketball team (20-5) were unable to claim a third place finish in the District Four 1A playoffs consolation round, and fell in a close contest to the Sullivan County Griffins (19-6) by a score of 45-42.
Liberty was once again able to bring another game down to the wire in the District playoffs, but the regular season success of closing games out late has been elusive to the Mounties in the playoffs. During the District playoffs and the NTL Showdown, Liberty has lost three-straight contests by a combined 10 points.
All of those games came down to the final minutes of play, and Liberty will need to bounce back in a big way as the opponents they will face in the State playoff bracket should boast much more difficult contests.
After a quarterfinals game for the Mounties where they went ice-cold from three-point land (6-30), the Mounties opened up with a much different approach and looked determined to punch the ball inside to big man Brandon Thompson and force the Griffins to deal with his height.
Both teams traded buckets early in the first quarter, and Thompson was extremely effective on both ends of the floor, scoring 8 points and also coming up with some big blocks early.
With neither team able to gain an advantage, the score was knotted headed into the second quarter with both teams sitting at the 13-point mark.
The second quarter was a slug-fest between these two teams, and they were only able to combine for 13 points in the entire quarter.
Liberty was finally able to get some traction from the three-point line with Koleton Roupp and Sam Shedden both connecting on triples late in the quarter that helped Liberty gain the upperhand in a low-scoring affair. At the half, Liberty escaped with a 20-19 lead.
Heading into halftime the Mounties offense needed a spark, only scoring 20 points in the first two quarter and also only hitting on two shots from deep during that span.
Thompson led the way on both sides of the ball for the Mounties, coming up with 10 of the Mounties 20 points and also coming up with a handful of blocks on the defensive end of the floor.
In the third quarter, the Mounties started to come alive from three-point land and connected on three triples in the frame with Colton Litzelman, Duncan Zeafla and Noah Spencer all getting in on the action and knocking down three-point shots.
Despite the increased volume from deep, the Sullivan County team wouldn’t go away, and ended up building a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter behind a big quarter from the tandem of Jesse Williams and Sam Carpenter, who combined to score 13 of Sullivan County’s 16 third quarter points to push the score to 36-32 heading into the final quarter of the consolation round.
With just one quarter and two points away from a third place finish in the District playoffs, the Liberty offense continued to struggle to get buckets down the stretch and only scored nine fourth quarter points.
After a slow start, Spencer started to come alive and lead his team in the fourth, scoring five of his team’s nine points in the frame.
It wasn’t enough to claw back though, as Sullivan County held on despite a late rally that saw the lead disappear with the score tied at 42 with just around 30 seconds remaining.
Sullivan County was able to hold on and pull off a 45-42 win over Liberty and a third place finish in the District playoffs.
The North Penn-Liberty team has seen its first true adversity of the 2019-2020 season in the District playoffs and after going 7-0 in games decided by six points less in the regular season, have dropped three such games in their last three contests to head into the State playoffs.
With a lot more game experience in adverse conditions, Liberty will need to use the adversity as a building block to get back to closing games out effectively in the second half of games in the State playoffs.
Thompson led all Mounties scorers with 14 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks in the loss for Liberty. Spencer was also able to add 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Both Litzelman and Zeafla added five points for the Mounties to round out their top-scorers on the night.
The first-round matchup for the Mounties in the state playoffs won’t be an easy one, as they will take on the high-octane offense of the Mount Calvary Christian team (25-2) who have scored an average of 68.6 points per game and knock down just under six three-pointers per game. They are also currently riding an 18-game win streak coming off a District Championship.
Liberty will travel to Steelton-Highspire High School in Steelton for their first-round matchup on Friday, March 6 for a 5 p.m. tip-off.