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April 24, 2014

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hs basketball:

Liberty erases deficit to down Silverado, force rivals into play-in game

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Liberty basketball player Aaron Navitsky.

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The Liberty High basketball team might not be advancing to next week’s playoffs. But overcoming a late double-digit deficit to beat their neighborhood rival in the Patriots’ last game is a decent alternative.

The Patriots on Thursday rallied back from a 14-point second-half deficit against Silverado to force overtime and eventual prevail, 60-54. The loss puts Silverado into a fourth-place tie in the Southeast Division with Basic, forcing the teams into a play-in game either Saturday or Monday for the Southeast Division’s final spot for next week’s playoffs.

Liberty senior Aaron Navitsky led the comeback with 11 points in the fourth quarter for a game-high 20 points. His 3-point play on the initial possession of overtime gave Liberty the momentum it needed in the four-minute extra session.

“We’ve been leaning on Dirk (Navitsky) all season,” Liberty coach Pat Welby said. “We expect him to be our leader, and he’s been our leading scorer and rebounder.”

The Patriots trailed 34-26 entering the fourth quarter when Navitsky scored five points, including two free throws and a 3-pointer, in the opening 30 seconds of the quarter to cut the deficit to 34-31.

After only scoring 26 points in the first 24 minutes of action, the Patriots erupted to start the fourth quarter with 14 points in the first three minutes of play. Navitsky was at the center of the comeback.

“Our guys kept giving me the ball,” Navitsky said. “I’m the senior and leading scorer. When I have a threat inside, give me the ball and I’ll go to work. In the fourth quarter, I went at it hard and went aggressive because we were in the bonus.”

He continued in overtime, starting with the 3-point play for a 51-48 lead.

“The 3-point play was a huge start at the beginning (of overtime),” Welby said. “It puts them in a hole right off the bat, and that’s tough to climb out of.”

Silverado answered with three free throws, two from Ruben Jackson and one from Alex Paula, to tie the game at 51.

After Liberty guard Jeremy Lagasca knocked down two free throws to give the Patriots a 53-51 lead, senior Zach Earnest made a pivotal steal and layup to give his team a two-possession lead.

Rhandy Tomlinson sealed the game for the Patriots as he sank two clutch free throws with 10.5 seconds left in overtime for a 58-54 lead. Tomlinson finished with eight points, including three in overtime.

“It meant everything. We didn’t want to go out on a loss,” Navitsky said. “We knew we weren’t going to get to the playoffs, but that is an amazing win and will hopefully knock them out of the playoffs.”

The Patriots may be eliminated from playoff contention, but Liberty’s seniors finished their high school careers with an inspiring comeback victory on their home floor.

“We’re real proud of our seniors that played for us for four years,” Welby said. “They did a great job. Ty Byrd, Aaron (Navitsky), Zach Earnest, and Daniel Filimona. They set a good example for the rest of our returners next year.”

Meanwhile, Silverado has one day to prepare for its play-in game with Basic. The winner will play Northeast champion Canyon Springs Tuesday in the Sunrise quarterfinals.

“We had our chances tonight,” Silverado coach Martin Ferriter said. “We led by 12 at halftime then shot ourselves in the foot. We found every single way to give the game away. “

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