Liberty Captures Region Title in Winner-Take-All

by Justin Vargas | Posted on Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

The 5A Northwest Region Championship would be on the line on Tuesday night at Centennial High School (13-12), as the Coyotes would host Head Coach Mark Wood (14-11) and the Lions from Liberty. Back on January 19th, the two squared off on Liberty’s home-court as the Lions defeated Centennial 82-71. The Coyotes would be searching for some ultimate revenge by avenging that loss with a win and the outright Region Title.

Centennial coming out of the gates red hot with the game moving at warp-speed right off the opening tip. Centennial’s 6-foot-1 senior guard Peyton Nelson would connect on a 3-ball, the Coyotes second in a one-minute span, to pull out with an early 10-5 lead.

But Liberty’s 6-foot-1 talented junior guard Josh Ursery would counter with a spin-cycle move right down the gut of the defense to get Liberty to within 3 with just over 6 minutes remaining in the opening quarter.

Good ball-movement would beat Liberty’s frantic trap defense and open-up some easy looks early on. To help their cause even more, they owned the offensive glass early as Liberty shot themselves in the foot with some unexplainable turnovers as countless balls seemed to fall Centennial’s way early, with the Coyotes taking full advantage and getting out to a 16-9 lead with just over 3 minutes to go.

With Liberty coming back in a full-court press, their 6-foot-6 senior forward Quentin Guliford (Montana State commit) would get an open-court steal and finish with a slam dunk. On the very next possession, their 5-foot-10 senior point guard Jacob Edahl would get the Lions out in transition and find Ursery for a grown-man 2-hand slam dunk to get them back to within 3 with less than 2 minutes remaining in the 1st quarter.

With Centennial ahead 20-15, Edahl would get a 3-pointer to rim in to get the Lions to within 2 to close out the quarter.

Up by 3 a minute into the 2nd quarter, Nelson would continue his hot-shooting ways and can another 3-ball to put them up 25-19. However, on the next possession Centennial would get out in transition only to run into the Savage that is Josh Ursery, as he would pin a lay-up attempt off the glass to deny a lead extension.

Liberty’s 6-foot-5 sharp-shooting forward Connor Ray would come out in rare form with less than 6 minutes to go, blowing by two Coyotes defenders to get Liberty back to within 3 and force a Centennial timeout.

Edahl’s 3-pointer a minute later would tie the game for the first time since the start, as you could feel the momentum starting to shift in Liberty’s favor. Liberty’s defensive pressure would hit a new notch midway through the 2nd quarter, creating turnovers and making Centennial shoot shots that are nowhere listed on their resume. However, they would miss on 6 straight 3-point attempts with a chance to take the lead for the first time.

With Centennial leading by 4 and just over 2 minutes left in the first half, their 6-foot-4 sophomore David Teibo would send a floater attempt back like a volleyball spike with some hot sauce on it. And the highlights would not be stop there for the Coyotes, as their 6-foot-4 senior wing Koby Jones would put a Liberty defender on a poster with a ESPN-worthy one-handed facial, to make it 33-29.

However, Liberty would show some poise and answer with a 6-point run that would be capped with a up-and-under drive to the basket by Guliford to give Liberty their first lead with 45 seconds left in the half.

A put-back by Centennial’s 6-foot-3 senior wing Trent Washington just before the buzzer would give them a 37-35 lead going into the half.

After Centennial would open up the 2nd half with a 6-0 run, Liberty would answer with a 9-point run of their own, with Guliford scoring 5 of the 9 himself, putting them up 44-40 with less than 6 minutes to go in the period.

Liberty would stretch the lead to 14 with 2 and a half minutes left but would see that lead pulled down to 9 after a 5-0 run by Centennial. The last 2 minutes would stall out offensively for both squads as Liberty would take a 58-49 lead into the final quarter. Liberty could credit that lead to the activity and hustle of their 6-foot senior guard Kade Heddings, as his play during a 3-minute stretch of the 3rd was a difference maker for the Lions.

Less than a minute into the 4th quarter, Liberty would lose their starting point guard, Edahl, as he picked up his 5th foul to exit the game. Two minutes into the 4th quarter, the game would start to look a little bit like a backyard melee with bodies hitting the ground and multiple players for each team fighting for the boards. A big-time drive topped with a scoop right-hand lay-up by Guliford would make it 65-56, with Liberty on top.

With Centennial trying to mount a come-back and their high-flyer, Teibo, wide open under the rim for what looked like an inevitable slam-dunk, Liberty’s 6-foot-5 sophomore wing Jacob Patterson would make a huge hustle play and poke the ball out from the back as Teibo tried to cock-back on the dunk attempt. On the next possession, Patterson would make a big play again, nailing an open 3-pointer in the corner to give them a 71-61 lead with just over 3 minutes left in the game.

30 ticks later Guliford would put a Centennial defender in the blender and finish with a sweet left-handed hook. And that wasn’t even his best play in a 13-second span, as he put a ball-fake on the Coyotes defense and finished with a air-soaring 2-hand jam to push the lead to 12.

With less than a minute, Guliford would find Patterson in the corner to put the nail in the coffin, as the sophomore would knock another one down to push the lead to 14.
The Lions would go on to win 80-70 to crown themselves Region Champs on their rivals home floor.

Guliford would finish with 26 points as Ursery pitched in 16 on somewhat of an off-night for the talented junior guard.

Quentin Guliford is probably playing at about 70% at best and still shined in a game that he probably would have absolutely dominated if healthy, given the style of play. He can just flat out play the game. At 6-foot-6, he is long and springy (even with a hobbled leg) and makes things happen on both ends of the floor. And just in case you were wondering, if you did not know already, he is not a 6-foot-6 role player. He is a factor! He is one of the rare players in the state that can soar above the rim for a rebound and dribble it down the floor to either finish in transition or find the open man and be a playmaker. Also has a nice inside/outside game to go with a good outside stroke and an arrangement of post moves. Montana State is getting themselves a player.

Josh Ursery is just a DOG! He is going to take it to you, no matter what the traffic looks like. He plays the game like a 6-foot-1, 165-pound battering ram. He doesn’t shy away from contact and he does not want to be elusive when taking it to the rack. He wants to punch it on you every time! He is not just athletic, he is explosive. Those god-given abilities mixed with a nice outside stroke and mid-range game, makes him one of my top sleeper prospects in this State. If you have not seen him play, treat yourself. I would still like to see him work on his handle and transition to the point guard position a little smoother. Also, playing lower to the ground with the ball in his hands. He has a tendency of staying long when driving to the basket which makes him take an extra second trying to explode up to finish. When he learns to stay low, he will be able to explode up in one motion and finish through contact better. Good news is, he is a gym rat, so the work should be no problem.


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