Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009 | midnight
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The start of Wednesday's game against Canyon Springs did not go the way Liberty wanted.
Canyon Springs jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and the Patriots looked outmatched right from the jump.
Then the Patriots head coach Pat Welby called timeout to calm down his team and adjust defenses. From that point forward the Patriots controlled the Pioneers in nearly every way, pulling off a 59-47 upset victory.
"We told our guys that you got to play perfect when you get in the playoffs and you play on the road," Liberty head coach Pat Welby said. "For the most part we did that."
Liberty's victory gives the Patriots momentum heading into the Sunrise Regional semifinal against Foothill. The Patriots have won six of their last seven games and now get to play the remainder of the regional tournament at home.
"We're on a roll now," Welby said. "The good thing is we get to play at our house…coming on the road was not easy."
Playing in a road atmosphere, Welby made good use of his timeouts to settle down his team and make effective adjustments.
After Canyon Springs jumped out to the early lead, Welby used the timeout in the first quarter to switch his defense to a full-court press, which gave the Pioneers problems and put Liberty on a 10-0 run.
In the fourth quarter, the Pioneers cut the Patriots' double-digit lead to five and Welby again used a timeout to adjust defenses and kill Canyon Springs' momentum.
His tactic worked, as Liberty responded with two quick baskets to bring the lead back to double digits.
"Number one you just want to use (timeouts) as a momentum changer," Welby said. "Number two, we switched defenses both times, and it helped us a little bit."
The bulk of Liberty's production came from three players: Cameron and Kenneth Peters and Milos Knezevic.
Only four players scored for the Patriots, and the success of the offense started with Cameron Peters. He ran Liberty's offense and used his quick step off the dribble to penetrate Canyon Springs' defense, driving to basket for layups or dishing to open teammates. He finished with 13 points on the night.
"They attacked the basket well," Canyon Springs head coach Daryl Branham said.
As Cameron would drive to the hoops, he would often pass to his brother Kenneth or Knezevic, who would finish on the good looks. Knezevic hit open shots and knocked down his free throws to finish with a game-high 22 points. Kenneth Peters added 18 points for the Patriots, who were originally scheduled to play at Eldorado in the first round. Liberty then drew Canyon Springs after Desert Pines had to forfeit three games for using an ineligible player, dropping them from a one to three seed.
"We didn't know who we were going to play. We were preparing for three teams this whole weekend."
The Patriots are no strangers to the postseason. Liberty advanced to the semifinals of the Sunrise Regionals last season and Welby thinks his team is peaking at just the right time.
"The confidence keeps growing and growing," Welby said "These guys have playoff experience and it helps. We tell our guys, 'it's not always the best team, it's the team that's playing the best.'"
Garrett Downing can be reached at [email protected] or 948-7803