Bethlehem Press

Thursday, May 28, 2020
Press photo by Rob MerchantLiberty’s Rondell McNeil and the Hurricanes fell to NHS in districts. Press photo by Rob MerchantLiberty’s Rondell McNeil and the Hurricanes fell to NHS in districts.

Northampton upsets Hurricanes

Friday, February 28, 2020 by Jeff Moeller Special to the Press in Sports

Coming off their loss to Allen in the East Penn Conference (EPC) championship game, Liberty was optimistic it could regain its form during an earlier 15-game winning streak in the opening round of the PIAA District 11 Class 6A playoffs.

Still, the second-seeded Hurricanes didn’t want to take the seventh-seeded Northampton Konkrete Kids lightly.

Unfortunately, the Hurricanes couldn’t get into a rhythm all night, and they suffered a 52-44 defeat at the Easton Area Middle School Feb. 22.

The loss suddenly ended the Hurricanes’ season with an overall 20-6 record.

In a game that was a tussle from the start, Liberty’s biggest lead was four points early in the third quarter.

They battled back from an early 10-4 deficit and held one-point lead both at the end of the first quarter (11-10) and at halftime (21-20). Sophomore Joe Barnes didn’t play because of violating team rules and senior Ish Gonzalez left the game in the first half due to an ankle injury.

The Hurricanes closed to within 43-41 with just under three minutes to play, but Northampton took advantage of Liberty’s 10 team fouls and converted six of their last nine points from the foul line. Liberty committed its eighth team foul late in the third quarter.

“Until the last minute, our kids really hung in even though we couldn’t get anything going,’ said Liberty head coach Chad Landis.” They hit some big shots and were very steady on defense.”

Liberty was frustrated by Northampton’s effective matchup zone defense that limited to one three-pointer. In addition, the Hurricanes weren’t able to make the most of their 19 offensive rebounds.

Sophomore Kuwasi Wellington and junior Antonio Montgomery each scored 10 points to lead Liberty. Leading scorer senior center Will Harper managed eight points, mostly in the paint.

“We knew that matchup zone was going to cause us some problems,” added Landis. “I thought we had an uncharacteristically bad day from the arc [with just one made 3-pointer]. We didn’t execute the details or the stuff we were trying to do when we were trying to get the ball inside.

“That combination made it tough.”

Liberty will return the majority of its cast, as it will lose only four seniors. Even though they ended their season with consecutive, significant defeats, Landis looked at the big picture.

“When we get a chance to sit back and look, the season had a lot of positives,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’ll be judged by our final couple of games, and our final couple did not go well. We have to own that and live that and hopefully make some changes so it doesn’t happen again.”