HILLSBORO — One thing that’s nice to know about your basketball team this early in a new season is that it isn’t terrified of the fourth quarter.
The Liberty girls proved it for the second straight game of the young season with a 71-63 home victory Tuesday night over Central Catholic.
It wasn’t as dramatic as last Friday’s wild 73-67 overtime victory over West Salem, when the Falcons rallied from 18 down in the second half for the win. But it was just as indicative of the Falcons’ fearless second-half mentality.
As the Falcons and Rams entered the last eight minutes of the game, neither had built up enough momentum to take command of the game. Liberty led 51-49, but the win was there for the taking for either team.
The Falcons took it. They scored the first seven points of the last period to establish a 58-49 edge, then turned the game over to junior post Breeze Bartle and waltzed home.
The field goal that gave them the nine-point lead was a three-pointer by sophomore guard Taylin Smith with 5:10 to go. It was also the Falcons’ last field goal.
Bartle was utterly imperturbable in the last quarter. She hit all 10 of her free throws in the last period on her way to a 23-point night. She hit all 12 of her freebies in the second half and 13 of 14 for the game.
Whatever chance the Rams had of fouling their way back into it died every time Bartle stepped to the line.
“I’m confident there,” she said. “I have the routine down and I know I can make them. I wanted to be there.”
Falcon coach Melanie Wagner likes her up there, too.
“This isn’t a knock on anybody else,” she said, “but if we’re in a free throw situation, Breeze is the one I want up there. She’s calm and confident at the line. She’s a better shooter and scorer than maybe she thinks she is.”
It was the second straight disappointment for the Rams, who lost by a point to third-ranked Tigard on Friday. The Rams arrived at Liberty without center Marianna Payne, the transfer from Camas who score 18 points and hauled down 10 rebounds against Tigard. She missed the Liberty game for undisclosed reasons.
Still, they hung with the Falcons for three-fourths of the game. They were burned a few times by the Falcons’ full-court pressure, but broke it often enough to hang in. Bella Scarlett stayed with the Falcons’ twin towers of Bartle and Clara Robbins, the Rams hit four three-pointers in the first three periods and had their chances.
But the fourth quarter belonged to the Falcons, who led by anywhere from eight to 10 points the rest of the way.
“I thought it was awesome,” Wagoner said of the fourth quarter. “I would say that all 12 players came up huge. It’s definitely nice to have the girls step up and win there.”
The Falcons, 2-0, are also deep. They survived the loss of two starters — Livia Knapp to a third-quarter injury and Maliah Jobe to fouls — but pressed the entire fourth quarter.
“We’re certainly better at it this year,” Wagoner said. “In the past we tried to pressure, but we didn’t do it as well as tonight.”
That’s OK. The Falcons got to the free throw line. That’s all they needed to do.
Robbins finished with 12 points for Liberty. Ella Burgess hit three three-pointers and led the Rams with 13 points. Scarlett had 11 and Megan Potter 10.