The 2016-17 Liberty basketball Eagles are said to be a work in progress. Seven games into the season, the Eagles are looking like they are well on their way to big things this winter.
Liberty broke open a tie game with a second quarter surge and a late third quarter run, and rolled to a 75-61 victory at Fort Zumwalt North on Thursday night (Dec. 22).
Three players posted double figures for the Eagles as junior guard Jalen Sims, junior forward Kaleb Overall, and senior forward Brian Jones led the way for Liberty.
“It’s a total team effort,” Overall said. “We have a bunch of guys that can come off the bench and contribute.”
Fort Zumwalt North (3-5) out blazing at the outset as the Panthers jumped to an 18-9 lead behind a Marco Powells bucket and a Jermaine Bell basket late in the first quarter.
Liberty (6-1) found its shooting touch in the second quarter as Sims hit a jumper and a three-ball to key an 11-point run that erased a 20-11 Panthers lead one minute into the second quarter.
The Eagles held a 31-28 lead just before the break but Zumwalt North junior guard King Rue dropped in a bucket and a free-throw to tie it at the half 31-31.
“I think we just got off to a little bit of a slow start and I think you credit Zumwalt North for coming out and playing really hard,” Liberty coach Chip Sodemann. “They kind of got us on our heels and they made some shots but we made some adjustments at halftime and our guys answered the bell.”
Sims, Overall, and Jones answered the bell for the Eagles in the second half as the trio finish with 24 points, 20 points, and 14 points respectively.
A 15-5 run over the final three minutes of the third quarter put Liberty in control as Jones keyed the run with six of his 14 points and the Eagles held a 52-42 lead after the third quarter.
“When we went into the locker room coach talked to us and we made some adjustments to their press and obviously they worked,” Overall said. “I think we started finding some holes in their press and I decided to be more aggressive off the point with the ball.”
Liberty continued to cruise in the final stanza, scoring another 23 points.
It was a nice way to enter the Christmas break before the Eagles head to Rolla for the US Bank holiday Tournament next Wednesday but Sodemann warned they are still a long way from where they want to be.
“I think we’ve got some guys that on any given that can lead us in scoring and rebounding but we’re a work in progress and we’ve got to continue to get better,” Sodemann said.
Rue led the Panthers with 24 points, nine of them on three-pointers.