SWANTON — Round three of Liberty Center vs. Swanton went to the home team for a change.
The host Lady Bulldogs led the entire second half and eliminated the Lady Tigers 43-32 in the Division III district girls basketball tournament opener Thursday.
The two teams met twice in the regular season with the road team winning each time: Liberty Center 50-37 Dec. 28 and Swanton 34-27 Jan. 28.
The Lady Tigers were eliminated at 13-9 overall.
“We knew what they wanted to do and they knew what we wanted to do,” LC coach Tim Davis said. “I thought we had some easy ones early that we might’ve missed and just weren’t strong enough with the ball at times. The ball just didn’t bounce our way.”
Liberty Center endured another tough shooting night against Swanton, going 12 of 45 overall and 5 of 22 from 3-point range.
Samantha Graber hit four 3-pointers for 12 points to lead the Lady Tigers, while Cassidy Chapa had seven points. The duo had five and four rebounds, respectively.
“When we did get it inside, I thought we had some success,” Davis said. “We had openings that we just missed, didn’t pass the ball inside for whatever reason. We knew it’s tough to pass the ball around the arc making shots.”
Swanton’s 5-3 senior twins of Aricka and Averie Lutz were their usual dynamic tandem, impacting the game in all facets.
Aricka racked up a game-high 25 points, going 11 of 12 at the foul line and 10 of 11 in the fourth quarter, and tallied six rebounds, while Averie had two points, 10 rebounds and three steals.
“They do everything,” Davis said. “They just have a knack for knowing where the ball is at at all times.”
Both squads slugged it out in the first half, swapping four lead changes and three ties — the first 7-7 at first-quarter’s end and the last 16-16 in the final minute of the second frame via a Chapa putback.
However, the Lutzs scored the final five points to lead 21-16 at halftime. Averie Lutz hit two free throws and Aricka Lutz converted a 3-point play out of a transition look with 9.9 seconds remaining.
In the third quarter, Graber drained a 3-pointer around scores from Swanton’s Katie Floyd and Samantha Taylor (3-ball).
The Lady Tigers made only 2 of 12 attempts in the third quarter, the last a Peyton Armey bucket off a Samantha Engler steal to cut Swanton’s lead to 28-22 entering the fourth.
Alyssa Giesige scored twice to start the fourth quarter and trim LC’s deficit to 30-26, but Swanton didn’t bend any further.
Giesige totaled four points, three rebounds and two steals, while Lucy Jones had three points, 10 rebounds, one steal and four blocks.
LC seniors Long, Chapa, Graber, Samantha Engler and Erica Rae Herrick each played their last game under Davis.
Davis said the team dealt with its fair share of injuries and the obstacle of COVID-19 over the course of the season, making any kind of routine difficult.
“Our girls handled it really well,” Davis said. “You look back at all of our league games, we were right there in every single one of them. These girls never quit.
“I told them after the game, ‘There’s much more things to life than sports,’” Davis said. “The one thing that I’m very proud of is the effort they give, and most important’; I’m proud of the understanding and knowing that all five of these girls are going to be extremely successful in life.”
Liberty Center 7 9 6 10 — 32
Swanton 7 14 7 15 — 43
Liberty Center — K. Mohler 0-1-0-3, Chapa 3-0-1-7, Graber 0-4-0-12, Jones 1-0-1-3, Giesige 2-0-0-4, Armey 1-0-1-3. Totals: 12-45 5-22 3-10 — 32.
Swanton — Taylor 0-2-1-7, Floyd 2-0-0-4, Ar. Lutz 5-1-11-25, Nelson 1-0-0-2, Av. Lutz 0-0-2-2, Pelsuo 0-0-1-1, Eitniear 1-0-0-2. Totals: 12-36 3-13 15-19 — 43.