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Liberty girls fall to Upper Dublin

The postseason for Liberty’s girls basketball team was one of accomplishment and pride, ending in a 47-36 loss to District 1’s Upper Dublin (Fort Washington) in a first round PIAA Class 6A state playoff game on March 10 at Liberty.

“The season’s been great,” said Hurricane guard Emma Pukszyn. “We had a lot of milestones for Liberty, and being able to say we accomplished things that no one expected us to was just great.”

Liberty’s first half against the Cardinals showed the strength of the Hurricanes’ teamwork, sharing the ball and making sharp, inside passes that resulted in 18 points. A buzzer beater at the half gave Upper Dublin 21 points as the teams headed to the locker room.

Liberty guard Ava Kopetskie added two points to start the third quarter, but the Hurricanes were unable to score again until Pukszyn’s free throws with 1:01 left in the period.

Upper Dublin’s Colleen Besachio and Amy Ngo scored all the Cardinals’ points in the third.

“They’re very patient,” said Liberty coach Jarrett Carnes. “They can run their offense up to two minutes if they want to. They set a lot of screens. They were getting to the basket. They don’t live by the 3. But we made a lot of silly mistakes. We couldn’t rebound very well, and some shots were rolling out that normally fall. A couple calls go our way too, maybe it’s a different game, but I’m very proud how we were down 10 points and came back to make it a two-point game.”

Pukszyn grabbed a loose ball, passed it to Jordan Thompson, who got it to Kopetskie, converting on a three-point play which made the score, 36-34.

“We were trying to speed up the game because they like to slow it down, and we were trying to push the ball and make one-on-one moves,” Pukszyn said.

But Liberty was charged with a technical foul when a player on the bench ran onto the court in celebration of the play.

“I told her that’s not why we lost,” Carnes said. “They got two free throws; they made one. We left it all out there, and that’s all I can ask. I’m proud of how we fought all post season, and they deserved the extra games. Congrats to Upper Dublin, and I wish them luck, and hopefully they can keep it rolling.”

Foul shots sealed the game for the Cardinals as they sank all 10 in the final minutes.

Liberty will graduate seniors Layla Orth, Aziah Wilkins, and Nana Slippe.

“We made it farther than anyone thought we would, so I can’t ask for more. I really can’t,” said an emotional Orth. “Nothing compares. Nobody even thought of us being a contender in the beginning of the season, and look at us now. We were in the top three out of so many teams that were projected to make it over us. We took an elevator ride up.

“I have a sisterhood now, I really do, and it’s something I don’t think I ever had before with this team, and I look forward to coming back in future years and watching them. These girls are gonna go far. I think they have more potential than anyone in the league.”

Coach Carnes is already looking forward to the off season; not because basketball season is over, but because of the competition ahead.

“I’m happy we have a majority of our team coming back. There’s some shoes to fill but they started to believe they could go out there and compete with the best of the best, and I’m happy for them and proud of them,” he said. “Layla has been around for four years, and I’m super proud of her. She’s like a mini assistant coach, a leader. She’ll leave it all out there and do what we ask of her. She communicates very well and has so much love for the team. I can’t thank her enough for everything’s she ‘s put in before and during our tenure here.”

Jordan Thompson looks to make a pass during the opening round of the state playoffs last weekend.
Press photos by Linda Rothrock Layla Orth will be one player lost to graduation as the Hurricanes saw their season come to an end at states.