Liberty girls basketball team falls to Mercer Island

2024 hasn’t been kind to the Patriot girls, as they are just 2-5 in the new year.

After starting the year on a high of all highs with a seven-game win streak and holding a 9-2 record through the first 11 games, the Liberty High School girls basketball team has stumbled since the calendar changed from 2023 to 2024.

Aside from the two wins against Interlake, the Patriots have now lost five out of seven games in the new year.

The road for the Patriots has not been an easy one — three of the five losses have been against top teams in the state.

The treacherous road had Lake Washington on it twice and included Tahoma on Martin Luther King Day at the Showare Center in Kent.

“Starting with the L-Dub game, we had four straight tough games. That’s like playoffs. We have to understand competing and staying in these games and continue to get ourselves in situations where it’s close,” said Head Coach Travis Whitaker.

The third loss in a row came in a crucial game against Mercer Island at home on Jan. 24. Liberty fell to the Islanders 54-46 in a game that the Patriots looked to be getting over the hump.

In the opening quarter, Liberty struggled to get the offense going, scoring just seven points from three different players. Missed shots hurt the Patriots’ momentum early on.

“We had quite a few missed layups in the first. I thought we played pretty good offense. We just didn’t cash it in… There are some fundamentals to it certainly, but at the end of the day you just gotta make ‘em,” Whitaker said.

The offense was sporadic at times for the Patriots. In the first half, Chelsea Irvine had just seven points, leading the way for Liberty.

Junior Ella Whitaker was the story of the third quarter. She scored nine of her 11 total points in the quarter and helped cut the Islander lead to nine points. Annabelle Le had the only other basket for Liberty in the third quarter.

Coming off the bench, senior Kyra Koxlien scored six points in the first half, then shot out of a cannon in the fourth quarter.

“She was aggressive, number one. She’s not always that way. She struggles confidence-wise on when to go and when not. Tonight, she went on every opportunity, she was ready for it. That shows what she is capable of. She is a good player,” Whitaker said.

Entering the final quarter, Liberty trailed 40-31. Koxlien scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, going on a 6-0 run by herself, getting the game to 37-42.

“We got real dialed in there to start the fourth with what our game plan was. We strung together some stops. Kyra got going for us, which was great,” Whitaker said.

Patriot junior Addison Tran had a rough game against the Islanders, but hit the biggest shot of the game when the Patriots needed it most. Tran drilled a three-pointer to cap a 9-0 run and put the Islanders within striking distance for the first time since the first quarter.

“We really have the type of team that if we create the right shot we can take it. I was proud of her that she was ready for it and wasn’t scared to let it go. It was a big shot for us. I wish it kind of pushed us forward,” Whitaker said.

It was Mercer Island who instead pushed the Patriots back. The Islanders slowed down Liberty and went on a 12-4 run to close the game out.

“When rubber hits the road in the last two minutes, you gotta be able to (make shots) too. That is where I see us stumbling a little bit,” Whitaker said.