Liberty-Benton blocks out Carey

CAREY – When Rachel Myers takes her basketball talents to Bowling Green State University next year, she’ll become the third Liberty-Benton standout in five years to play college ball.

Amanda Hyde is putting the wraps to an outstanding career at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne, where she is averaging 22 points per game and sophomore Cait Craft is in the process of earning her second letter at Ohio State University.

But each of the three takes a back seat in Eagle lore to junior Lauren Kotey after she scored 14 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked 13 shots in Liberty-Benton’s 47-31 showdown win over Carey here Tuesday night.

“That’s our school’s first-ever triple-double. We’ve never had one before,” said Eagle coach Nate Irwin, who doubles as the school’s co-athletic director. “Amanda was never close and Cait was never close. That’s a rare occurrence for our school, for sure.”

Kotey’s effort was the foundation for Liberty-Benton’s 11th win of the season against a single loss. In the process, the Eagles snapped previously unbeaten Carey’s win streak at 12 games.

Especially important for the Eagles was Kotey’s effort at the defensive end. The slender 6-foot-2 junior proved dominant after a first-quarter battle that suggested anything but impressive defense.

The Blue Devils in fact had brief leads on four different occasions in the quarter before the two settled for a 16-16 tie at the break.

“You could tell from watching them warm up that Carey was going to be ready to play,” Irwin said. “And they came out in the first quarter and played extremely well. We got through that first quarter, relaxed and got calmed down and our defense adjusted to what they were trying to do a little bit better.

“From the second through the fourth quarter, that was the best defense we’ve played all year and probably the last two or three years,” he said.

It is hard to imagine a better performance any time against a quality opponent.

After scoring 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting in the first period, the Blue Devils managed just 6-for-38 from the field the rest of the way. The Eagles held Carey to seven points over the second and third quarters and the host club was just 3-for-20 during that span.

The Eagles weren’t lighting it up at the time, but they still managed to take a 23-20 lead at half and push it to 32-23 heading into the fourth period.

“They shot the ball well and we shot it poorly, even at the foul line,” Carey coach Phil Vaughn said. “We got a little passive against their zone in the second half. I can’t really put my finger on it, but we stopped attacking a little bit and the Kotey girl did a really good job for them inside.

“It was just a matter of their offense made plays against our defense and we just did not get into a groove against their zone,” he said. “You just can’t shoot like that and beat a Liberty-Benton, a team of that quality. You have to hope they’re shooting the ball just as badly and they weren’t.”

Kotey had six points, eight blocks and seven rebounds at halftime. Meanwhile, Carey’s senior inside trio of Ali Rymer, Logan Johnson and Hannah Draper struggled while finishing the game with a combined 11 points, 16 below their average. Johnson and Rymer did have 10 and eight rebounds, respectively.

“Their post players are very good but they are undersized compared to Lauren,” Irwin said. “We were really banking on Lauren being able to guard them one-on-one inside. We were going to try to force them to shoot over top of her. She is really hard to shoot over because she does a really good job of keeping her feet.

“She was the difference-maker for us on defense because she allowed our guards to get out on their shooters a little better,” he said. “If we had to help more inside, that would have been a problem and we would have had to adjust again.”

At the offensive end, Myers led the way with 21 points. She banked in a 3-pointer to start the fourth period and give the Eagles a little distance. Kotey then hit two foul shots and an inside hoop before Myers drove the lane for two to put it out of reach.

“She’s going to have the ball in her hands about 90 percent of the time,” Irwin said of Myers. “She hit some big shots and she creates havoc for the defense because she’s so athletic.”

Sophomore Sydney Wentling led Carey with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. But like other Blue Devils, she had a tough time getting her game in gear. Draper and Shelby Kin were next with five apiece.

“I’m not disappointed with the effort,” Vaughn said. “I certainly don’t think anyone watching the game would think we played soft or anything. We just couldn’t hit shots.”