COAL CITY —
Like most coaches, Liberty’s Aaron Pauley wants balanced scoring.
“We’ve got four guys averaging right at double figures. That means a lot,” he said. “We need guys scoring 18, 15, 10 and 12 points. If we have a guy scoring 36 points in one night, we’re probably going to lose.”
So Pauley had to like that Trevor McGhee scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds Friday night to lift the Class AA No. 10 Raiders to a 60-43 victory over Independence in Coal City.
The junior center was held scoreless in the first quarter, but slowly became a force inside the rest of the way. Four of his baskets were stickbacks.
“Independence ran a bit of a box-and-one on him in the first quarter. It caught us off guard,” Pauley said. “We made some changes, and I told him not to force anything, to not try to find a shot when it wasn’t open.
“He let the offense work around him, and it ended up working out for him in the second half.”
It was a game of streaks, with first Liberty and then Independence catching fire on the court. But when push came to shove, Liberty had an answer for everything the Patriots tried.
With McGhee smothered early, the Raiders rode the 3-point shooting of Acord, Austin Roop and Richard Hairston to forge a 16-6 lead.
Independence coach Chad Perkins, faced with an offense that couldn’t get the ball into the basket, made some changes after Liberty went up by 16, at 24-8. He brought in four players who started on the JV team, and while it weakened the defense somewhat, the Patriots began getting the ball up and down the court.
“We were pretty pleased early in the game with what we were doing defensively, but we couldn’t score,” Perkins said. “So we tried to generate some points off our defense.”
The Patriots’ trapping defense began causing the Raiders fits, and early in the third quarter the deficit was cut down to four, at 31-27.
Independence got the momentum, and reeled off baskets from sophomores Aaron Hunt and Adam Tolliver, plus two more from senior center Cody Collins.
Pauley wasn’t happy.
“The biggest thing is our guys are getting complacent in games, getting too relaxed, and turnovers are an issue,” Pauley said. “We let them hang around. I told them if they play like this Monday (against Westside), we’re going to get our butts handed to us.”
Finally, Liberty figured out the trap and began doing what it does best —finding the open man. Four different players scored as the Raiders went on a 10-0 run.
Dylan Keel hit a trifecta, McGhee scored from inside, Tre McDowell took it home on the fast break and Jacob Stump hit two foul shots. Another free throw, by McGhee, capped the run with 55 seconds left in the third quarter.
After an exchange of 3s, it would get no closer. McGhee saw to that with three baskets and a pair of foul shots down the stretch.
McDowell finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. Acord had 10 points, nine boards and three steals, and Roop chipped in eight points.
Liberty improved to 6-1 with the victory.
“This is the most enjoyable season I’ve ever had,” Pauley said. “Our kids are unselfish. They’re team-oriented now, and I like the way we’re going.
“Did I think we’d be 6-1? I thought we’d have a chance. We’ll have to battle hard to improve our record because we’re coming up on a hard stretch in January, but I think we’ll be all right. We’re going to win some games.”
Collins led Independence (0-6) with 10 points. Hunt had nine points, while Tolliver scored seven and Andrue Hughart had six, plus six rebounds.
“We’ve been struggling, looking for a win, but I’m encouraged,” Perkins said. “In our last game, we didn’t play well at all. Tonight we had a chance to win the game, but we missed a lot of lay-ups and shot less than 50 percent (8 of 20) at the foul line.
“Liberty would have been in the 50s if we hadn’t had to foul at the end. Offensively, we have to get a lot better.”
The Patriots will play at 7:30 p.m. today at Meadow Bridge.
Liberty hosts Westside in a makeup game at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
— E-mail: dstillwell@
Dylan Keel 1 1-2 4, Austin Roop 3 1-3 8, Devin Acord 3 3-5 10, Tre McDowell 4 4-6 12, Trevor McGhee 7 5-7 19, Richard Hairston 1 0-0 3, Jacob Stump 1 2-2 4. Totals: 20 16-25 60.
Chris Mills 1 0-0 3, Andrue Hughart 2 1-3 6, Martin Burgess 1 0-0 2, Bill Sargent 0 0-0 0, Cody Collins 4 2-5 10, Tyler Haga 1 1-4 4, Adam Tolliver 2 3-4 7, Brandon Treadway 1 0-2 2, Aaron Hunt 4 1-2 9, Austin Reed 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 8-20 43.
L 16 12 16 16 — 60
I 6 13 11 13 — 43
3-point goals — L: 4 (Keel, Roop, Acord, Hairston); I: 3 (Mills, Hughart, Haga). Fouled out — L (Roop).