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Monday, March 19th, 2007
By Ryan Hines
St. Henry's quest for Columbus halted
Liberty-Benton takes control in second half to keep perfect record intact for state berth
BOWLING GREEN - Liberty-Benton torched the Bowling Green State Univesity nets in the second half before cutting down those same nets following a Division III regional championship on Saturday night.
The Eagles scored 45 points in the second half en route to a 59-46 win over St. Henry as Liberty-Benton, the D-III state poll champions, earned a berth to the state tournament.
St. Henry (17-9) had the Anderson Arena crowd thinking upset as the Redskins held a 23-14 lead at halftime. The Redskins had a 22-12 rebounding advantage and held Liberty-Benton (26-0) to just 23-percent shooting in a miserable first half for the undefeated Eagles.
The second half was a whole different story for Liberty-Benton and star player Nathan Hyde.
After scoring just 14 points in the first 16 minutes of play, Liberty-Benton had that many points in the first six minutes of the second half.
Liberty-Benton took its first lead of the game following a 10-2 run to close the third quarter leaving the Eagles with a 37-32 lead heading into the final eight minutes of play.
"That's us, that's Liberty-Benton basketball," said Liberty-Benton head coach Steve Williman. "We played poorly in the first half, but were down just nine points to start the second half. We began to play our style of basketball to start the second half."
Hyde, the northwest district Player of the Year, scored just four points in the first half but led the charge for Liberty-Benton in the second half. The L-B senior led all scorers with 25 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter when the Eagles began to pull away.
"That's a real skilled player," said St. Henry head coach Joe Niekamp about Hyde. "We don't have a lot of matchups for him. He's got quickness, he's got size. He can pass the ball."
The Eagles shot 67 percent from the field in the second half while connecting on 11-of-13 from the free-throw line as Liberty-Benton's quickness took over.
"As the game wore on, their quickness became more of a factor," said Niekamp. "They drove the ball to the basket and got to the free-throw line by being aggressive going to the hole. You also have to give a lot of credit to their defense, particularly ball pressure. They make it tough on you. They just wore us down."
In addition to Hyde's 25 points, Aaron Craft and Brandon Craft added 15 and 10 points, respectively.
The football state championship delayed the start of the season for St. Henry and it showed as the Redskins stumbled to a 2-5 start.
"When you get a late start like we did with the state title in football, it takes awhile for players to adjust to their roles on the team and to get into basketball shape," said Niekamp. "We got better as the season wore on and once the kids all began to slip into their roles. I'm proud of these kids, they accompllished a lot."
Ironically, St. Henry had to beat Liberty-Benton in the state semifinals during the football season on its championship run during the fall.
"We knew that we couldn't base the entire game on getting even over what happened in football," Liberty-Benton's Brandon Craft said. "What's done is done. We knew we couldn't do that and let it cloud our mind and get in our head. But when it's all said and done, it's a little bit sweeter knowing that we got them back for that."
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