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Liberty girls top BC in OT

Bethlehem Catholic guard Cici Hernandez’s 3-pointer forced overtime with Liberty, but it was the Hurricanes who pulled out a 57-54 victory over the Golden Hawks in last Friday night’s city rivalry game at Becahi.

“Huge win. Huge win. I’m so proud of them,” said Liberty girls basketball coach Jarrett Carnes. “We knew it was gonna be a nitty-gritty game. We weren’t gonna come in and blow them out by 20 points, and they weren’t gonna do the same to us. They were 6-3, we were 7-4, so it was nice to get a test. We want to take it to the big dogs in the league, so it was nice to get another one of those victories like the Nazareth victory earlier this season.”

Liberty freshman forward Ava Kopetskie (15 points) hit a 3-pointer to start the overtime period.

Akasha Santos added two points for the Hawks, and in the final minute of overtime, Hernandez (18 points) put the Hawks ahead, 54-53.

“We needed to keep the ball in our hands and get them to foul because they were in the double bonus for awhile,” said Liberty guard Layla Orth, who then took back the lead for the Hurricanes on two free throws.

“Honestly, everything went quiet. After the shot went in, I heard all the screaming, and it hit me like a boulder, but before that, everything was silent,” Orth said. “When it went in, it was a huge relief that now we have the lead, we’re gonna get the stop, and it’s all going to go our way.”

Two made free throws by Kopetskie ultimately sealed the win for the Hurricanes.

“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. Those girls came in and played with a lot of energy. Coming down the stretch, they made a couple more plays than we did,” said Becahi coach Jose Medina. “Our girls fought, hung in there, but they got a couple more rebounds at some good times in the game than us, and we missed some assignments defensively. We have to give them credit for coming here in our gym and getting a road W.”

Liberty led after the first and second quarters, but Becahi turned the tables in the third quarter, and at one point, had a 10-point lead.

Kendra Rigo finished a big play for the Hawks when teammate Ella Bincarosky (12 points) received a pass and tipped the ball to Rigo underneath the basket. The Hurricanes lost the ball on the next possession, and Bincarosky took advantage with her third of four 3-pointers on Friday night.

“Coach Medina always lets me know that if I have a look that I like, shoot it,” Bincarosky said. “Before overtime, the last five minutes, we were like, we have to finish this out strong because if we get it within three minutes tied up, it was gonna be what it turned into. It was a big rivalry game, and they just kept pushing.”

Things started heading toward overtime a little earlier than the Hawks expected when Orth and Jordan Thompson combined for six points to end the third quarter, and teammate Ruby Miller (13 points) drained a 3-pointer followed by two more points from Thompson to open the fourth quarter.

“I knew how they were defending, kind of staying off, so I got the ball, knew I had the space, and I was letting them fly,” Thompson said. “Outside shots were hitting, but I knew we needed to get inside and get those quick buckets. Taking it to them was the big goal, and it worked out in our favor.”

Miller’s 3-pointer tied the game with 6:45 remaining in regulation. The Hurricane junior also had back-to-back buckets that ended the first quarter with a six-point Liberty lead.

“We were absolutely ready to win. I think we really focused on lifting each other up, and that was a big contributor to our win,” said Miller. “There were a lot of unexpected turns that happened. It’s hard to handle, and you get a wide range of emotions that go through your head, but you really have to stay focused on the game and on your teammates.”

Liberty junior Emma Pukszyn also had back-to-back scores after beating out a possible jump ball and after going the length of the court on a defensive rebound.

“I think we started pushing more in the second quarter,” Pukszyn said. “It was a really fun game, fast-paced, and when it slowed down, it did get a little physical, especially in the post area, but it was all good.”

It was the first time in at least four years that Liberty beat Becahi.

“This is our most competitive game of the year,” said Orth. “Freedom’s our crosstown rival, but this one is different.”

The ‘Canes and the Hawks will do it all over again on Jan. 31 when the teams meet for the second time this season, scheduled to be played at Liberty.

Said Coach Medina regarding what the Hawks could have done differently on Friday night, “You know what? We can’t give up 57 points. We’re better than that.”

Press photo by Katie McDonald The combined play of Layla Orth, Jordan Thompson, Ruby Miller, Abby Thompson, Julia Medaska, Emma Pukszyn, and Ava Kopetskie gave Liberty a 57-54 victory over Bethlehem Catholic on Jan. 6, 2022.