Hoops: Liberty girls win fifth straight to start season over Bellevue

Patriots are off to their best start since 2011.

The Liberty girls basketball team won its fifth game in a row to start the 2023 season over the Bellevue Wolverines at home, 56-45.

Head Coach Travis Whitaker was proud of the mental toughness the girls showed in the win Dec. 6.

“We’ve got an experienced group. These kids have all been playing together since they were little … Even when Bellevue made their runs in the second half, we were able to slow their momentum and get our feet back under us,” Whitaker said.

Liberty girls completed the sweep of the Wolverines in the first meeting between the two schools of the season following the boys team’s upset win on Dec. 4.

Five consecutive wins is the new high for Liberty since prior the pandemic back in 2019. This year’s team has a bit more work to do to match the 2019 team’s win streak of seven games in a row.

The offense took a little bit to get going, but the Patriot defense kept them in the game.

“The defense flies around and plays for each other. There is such a connectedness with the group. We want to see adversity because then we can show how connected we are, and I think tonight was a great example of that,” Whitaker said.

“We really feel like a family and our energy brings us together, and we use that to support each other,” junior Addison Tran said.

Senior Annabelle Le goes up for a layup against Bellevue. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Senior Annabelle Le goes up for a layup against Bellevue. Ben Ray / The Reporter

At the end of the first half, Liberty was down by one, 25-24.

Ella Whitaker showed why she is the leader on the Pats. In the first half, she had 12 points and made six free throws in the second half to put the Wolverines away. She leads by example and her teammates feed off her energy: “Her greatest strength is her vision. While we needed her to carry more weight as a scorer, when you see her make plays and makes those passes, that’s her, that’s who she is,” Whitaker said on his daughter.

“She played really well (tonight), she always does. She’s always pretty stable, calm and grounded, and someone we can pass to if we need a good play. She did pretty well tonight,” Tran said.

Free throws were a huge part of the second half of play, and to the Patriots’ credit, they showed desired improvement from game one of this season where they went 10 of 19 from the charity stripe.

“It’s been a thing we’ve talked about and tried to improve on. I thought the girls who stepped up did a really good job,” Whitaker said.

In the fourth quarter, Bellevue began full-court pressing the Patriots, which resulted in a couple of turnovers and points going the Wolverines’ way. Whitaker didn’t use a timeout to slow the game down — the girls did it on their own.

“Early in the season I want the girls to figure it out. I don’t want to save them with a time out. I wanted them to figure it out. Although it was a close game, I have confidence in them and their decision making,” Whitaker said.

“One of the key things for us was to try and stay patient and not force it. If I’m in the corner and I’m not open, then I’m not going to freak out. I just had to stay calm and know someone would come help me out,” Tran said.

Junior Addison Tran races up the floor. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Junior Addison Tran races up the floor. Ben Ray / The Reporter

It was a new look for Liberty and something that they now know how to defeat, “It was really good experience for us to go against that and we’ll be able to watch film on it and adjust. We didn’t necessarily take advantage of it, but we took care of the ball,” he continued.

Liberty junior Addison Tran was tasked with running the offense and bringing the ball up the floor for the Patriots. She finished with nine points but her impact on offense was monumental even getting folded up by a Wolverine player, “I try to stay really focused. I try to stay calm and not get overwhelmed (in those moments),” Tran said.

“I’ve known her since she was seven and she’s always been like that. She’s always been the smallest kid on the court and just battles and fights. She has no fear and is infectious with her energy for her group,” Whitaker said.

“She’s been a huge part of our success so far,” he added.

Bellevue has now lost seven games in a row to Liberty, and the Pats aren’t looking back. Liberty takes on a rebuilding Renton team Dec. 11 and follows up with Juanita on Dec. 13.