MONUMENT – Two stretches of individual excellence helped the Liberty boys’ basketball team eliminate Lewis-Palmer from the ranks of the unbeatens with a 71-58 victory on Saturday in the Rangers’ gym.
The first takeover came from Dailin Smith, a reserve wing who just started getting varsity minutes.
When Smith checked in, the Rangers (13-1) led 12-11 after Joel Scott scored six points in the opening quarter.
Smith gave the Lancers (12-4) the lead with a 3-pointer early in the second quarter. When Scott answered, Smith came back with a three-point play, two free throws and a second 3-pointer.
“That was huge,” Liberty junior Sean Bohuslavsky said. “He’s a good player, and that’s just what we needed right then to get a good, comfortable lead going into the half.”
Smith’s 11 second-quarter points produced a 30-19 Liberty lead at halftime and led to a 46-35 advantage through three quarters.
Bohuslavsky took over in the fourth quarter, matching Lewis-Palmer’s offense as the Rangers started knocking down shots and quieting any building momentum.
After a Rangers bucket made it 50-43, Liberty got Bohuslavsky an open corner 3-pointer out of a timeout to push the lead back to double digits with five minutes remaining.
While the Lancers seemed content to move the ball around the top of the key and work the clock after breaking Lewis-Palmer’s pressure, Bohuslavsky kept finding himself open in that same corner. He hit two more from the same spot and added a transition bucket to stretch the advantage to 13.
“I just trusted my teammates to find me,” Bohuslavsky said. “I went to the open spot, spotted up and let it fly with confidence.”
The win came at a good time for the Lancers, who entered 4-2 in league play with chances to avenge league losses to Rampart and Doherty coming up.
“I think tonight, for the first time this year, we actually put together 32 minutes of good basketball,” Liberty coach Ivan Chambers said.
Bohuslavsky led all scorers with 28 points, while Smith added 15.
Lewis-Palmer got 21 points from Matthew Ragsdale, who hit three of his four 3-pointers in the second half, and 15 from Scott, who scored 10 in the first half.
“I think their aggression level took us out of what we wanted to do," Ranger coach Bill Benton said. "They just came out and played harder."
The Lewis-Palmer coach has been pleased with the way his team responded to early success. Now, he’s hoping that can get even better after their first defeat.
“This group has shown a lot of character, a lot of mental toughness, learning through success, so I expect them to not be any different learning from struggle,” Benton said.
“This group will bounce back.”