Liberty defenders take revenge to remain in TAC chase



LIBERTY — Revenge was sweet Thursday night for the Liberty High girls basketball team as the Leopards defeated Hubbard, 55-21, in what was, in effect, an elimination game in the Trumbull Athletic Conference race.

Liberty (12-4 overall) improved to 8-2 in the conference, one game behind league-leading Brookfield. Hubbard (9-7), which defeated Liberty, 57-40, earlier in the season, is 7-3 in the league.

“There was a revenge factor,” Liberty coach John Hritz said. “We got beat the first time by Hubbard. We just played an awful game. The kids wanted this one, they wanted it bad, and they came out and responded in a positive way.”

Senior forward Brittany Armour led the Liberty attack with 22 points, five rebounds and three steals. Chi-Chi Merriweather added 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Melissa Dykes had 12 points and seven rebounds.

Brianna Pettway and Ashley Venable made four steals each as the Leopards had 19 steals and forced eight Hubbard turnovers.

“Brittany Armour just carries us. She’s a team leader, a silent team leader,” Hritz said. “I don’t know what she does, but through her example, and her play, she just seems to get the other kids fired up and still keeps them under control.

“Also, Chi-Chi Merriweather did an outstanding job on the boards tonight. We were limiting them to one shot and then kicking the ball out and going.”

The Leopards didn’t get going right away. Hubbard made four of its first nine shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, and jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the first five minutes. The Eagles made just 3-of-29 field goal tries the rest of the way.

“We have a tendency to start slow, I don’t know why,” Hritz said. “After the timeout we just kind of got it together and started picking up the tempo. When we slow the game down, we’re in trouble. The kids responded.”

The Leopards came back to take a 12-11 lead by the end of the first quarter. Ahead 16-13, Liberty went on a 12-0 run over the final five minutes of the first half. The lead was 39-18 after three quarters.

“We switched to a 1-2-2 zone and evidently it gave them [Hubbard] a lot of problems,” Hritz said. “We put pressure on the ball, collapsed in the middle, took their inside game away and forced them to shoot from outside.

“We like to play man, but we thought that in our man-to-man we were getting back-picked and we couldn’t fight through the picks. They were getting some easy shots on us, so we decided to try the zone. We didn’t play zone the first time we played them, so what did we have to lose?”

Abbie Deluco scored six points and Michele Starkey had five rebounds and five steals to lead Hubbard.