By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY January 13, 2004 Although the score didnt reflect the intensity of the game, it was a battle royale on the floor Thursday night as the host Liberty Lady Indians won their first game of the season by edging the Monticello Lady Panthers, 37-36.
Going into the non-league contest, the plucky home team was winless. And Monticello had a well-deserved reputation for playing hard scrabble ball.
Just the ticket for a good game.
Liberty (1-6) took a slim 19-18 lead into the locker room at halftime, only to be outscored 6-4 in the third quarter.
As the Lady Indians seemed destined to continue their journey along the road to another loss, they surged back to outscore the Lady Panthers by a 14-12 margin in the final period on the way to victory.
At 4:57, Libertys Lisa DeStefano missed a pair of free throws, but grabbed her own rebound to tie it up at 28-28. Seconds later, however, Monticello (2-3) was back up by one, 31-30.
Then things got really interesting.
With 30 seconds left on the game clock, it was back to the free throw line for DeStefano, where she faced a one-and-one situation.
She made both foul shots, but the Lady Panthers were still in the proverbial drivers seat, 36-34. And it seemed as if Libertys hopes of winning their first game of the season were rapidly slipping away.
But it wasnt over yet. Not by a couple of lucky shots.
At the 15-second mark, Jessica Klein stepped up to the foul line for the Lady Indians.
The crowd cheered as she made her first free throw, but fell silent as her second shot was off the mark.
But DeStefano snatched the ball off the glass for a game-winning put back, and six seconds later she held onto the ball under the Monticello basket to clinch Libertys first win of the year.
It was the best feeling in the world, said the exhilarated 17-year- old senior guard. Its been a long way . . . weve lost a couple, but now weve come back.
It was a good game, it was tight all the way through, added DeStefano, who scored a game-high 14 points.
Monticellos top scoring honors were shared by Brittney Morse and Liila Mack, as each player recorded six points. Mack also pulled down 14 rebounds in the contest.
Liberty was 5-of-12 (42 percent) at the free-throw line, while Monticello went 2-of-7 (29 percent).
I give Liberty all the credit, Monticello Coach Karen Atack said. It was a good game.
Liberty Coach Tom LaGattuta waxed a bit more poetic as he described the action.
It was one of those games that are a lot of fun to watch, a lot of fun to play and a lot of fun to coach, he said. It was close, it was exciting and the teams were evenly matched.
Everybody was excited the teams, the coaches and the fans. People were enjoying the game, and I think thats what high school basketball is all about.
With an eye to the future, LaGattuta added, Hopefully, well build from here.