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Young Lions stay hot without senior leader

Jan. 13—ANDERSON — Saturday night presented a new challenge for the Liberty Christian boys basketball team — playing without senior leader Devon Kelley from start to finish.

It took the Lions about a half to adjust, but they pulled away in the third quarter and beat Muncie Burris 64-37 for their fifth victory in their last seven outings.

"(Kelley) did a good job from the bench, coached from the bench, sat there (and) riled his guys up, had those guys going," Liberty Christian coach Norman Anderson said. "But it was a challenge."

The Lions responded by displaying their depth. Ten of the 11 players who entered the game scored, and the one who didn't — sophomore Jordan Haralson — contributed a team-high four assists.

It was a much-needed bounce-back game after a physical 67-57 loss against Seton Catholic in Richmond on Friday night. Kelley injured his shoulder during that contest and was wearing a sling during Saturday's home game.

There was no word on how much time the 6-foot-2 senior could miss.

Senior Jerramie Johnson led Liberty Christian with 13 points off the bench, and junior A'Marien Page added 12 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Some leadership duties fell to Page as the oldest player in the starting lineup. But he's still in his first year as a Lion and his first year as a varsity player.

"I just had to step up for the team," Page said. "I am the junior, and everybody else is freshmen. So I had to step up and help everybody get to the flow of the game."

It took awhile for Liberty Christian (9-6, 2-2 Pioneer Academic Athletic Conference) to find its footing.

The Lions led just 11-10 after the opening quarter, and it was just 23-18 in favor of the home team at the halftime break.

But Liberty Christian scored the first 10 points of the second half, and the outcome was never in question again.

The surge began with a steal and layup for freshman Kendrick Martin. Page scored on a putback, and Johnson scored on a drive to push the lead to 29-18 — the first time the Lions led by double digits.

Another Page putback and a basket by freshman T.J. English completed the run with 4:06 to play in the third quarter.

Defense was a key to Liberty Christian's rise. The Owls (1-7, 0-2) shot just 29.5% (13-of-44) from the floor and turned the ball over 29 times.

The Lions had 20 steals, led by Martin with six and sophomore Elijah Dixon — who started in place of Kelley — with four. Martin also had eight points and nine rebounds.

"Last night we had a tough one," Anderson said. "And tonight was one of those games where it was not a lot of strategy. You gotta come out, fight and play. And I think they did that for the most part."

Senior Asher Donahue almost single-handedly kept Muncie Burris in the game with 11 points in the first half. He finished with game highs of 16 points and 11 rebounds. Cole Conaster added 10 points for the Owls.

Liberty Christian shot 43.9% (25-of-57) from the field and was a very solid 12-of-15 at the free-throw line. Muncie Burris was 7-of-10 at the charity stripe, including a perfect 7-for-7 in the first half.

English was 4-of-4 at the free-throw line and finished with eight points. Fellow freshman Tywaine Fuller added six points, two assists and two steals.

The Lions will attempt to keep their recent hot streak going Friday at home against Winchester.

"Anybody on the bench can score," Page said of Liberty Christian's depth. "We can all get in. We're all disciplined. So we can do it."