By Lori Brown
LIBERTY With three minutes left in a tie game against Liberty last Wednesday night, Goshen Coach Joe Guarnieir felt his team was doing more to lose than win.
“I told them [during the timeout] we don’t deserve to win because they are playing harder than us,” recalled Guarnieir.
Apparently Goshen’s Manny Ukoh and teammate Ian Schupp got the coach’s stern message. In the final 2:15, Ukoh scored five points and Schupp made two foul shots to key a 7-0 run and close out the 50-43 non-league victory. It was the Gladiators fifth consecutive win to start the season.
“We made plays at the end that we had to,” said a relieved Guarnieir. “The talent came out at the end.”
“We came back in the fourth quarter, but they made the shots and we didn’t,” Liberty Coach Mike Salvia said. “They out-rebounded us 36-17. They out-hustled us, too.”
Guarnieir would disagree about that. “Liberty wanted it more than us,” Guarnieir said. “They were aggressive defensively and they beat us to loose balls. I give credit to them. They are well coached.”
Goshen outscored Liberty 13-7 during the third quarter to take a 36-28 lead into the final eight minutes. But the Indians came storming back in the fourth quarter reeling off 10 unanswered points to take a 38-36 lead. Eddie Byrd, who went a perfect 12-of-12 at the free-throw line in the game, led the charge, making seven foul shots. Ryan Henry hit a big 3-pointer and Yovanni Fields also scored during the Liberty run.
The two teams then exchanged the lead a few times until the Gladiators’ game-winning 7-0 finish.
Ukoh led a balanced Goshen scoring attack with 15 points while Ian Schupp and Dayquan Crandell contributed 11 and 10 points.
Byrd scored 10 of his game-high 25 points in the first quarter as Liberty (1-3) took a 14-5 lead. But Goshen’s Schupp scored five consecutive points to close the gap.
Liberty surged ahead again, 19-12, early in the second quarter before Goshen came back and tied the game 19-19 on a basket by Dayquan Crandell.
Ukoh scored just before the buzzer to give the Gladiators a 23-21 lead at halftime.
“We had a great game,” Liberty Coach Mike Salvia said. “Both teams played great.” “Goshen has good talent and is a well-coached team. We got up early, but their zone [defense] gave us a problem in the third quarter."
After the winter break, Liberty faces The Family School and Sullivan West, while Goshen is scheduled to play Monroe.