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No. 3 Coronado blows past No. 1 Liberty with big 3rd quarter — PHOTOS

One of the games Coronado’s boys basketball team circled on the schedule before the season started was a late-season meeting at Liberty, senior point guard Josiah Cunningham said.

Liberty won at Coronado in overtime last season and eliminated the Cougars in a 33-point rout in a Southern Region semifinal.

On the same floor of the playoff loss from a year ago, Coronado overcame — as Cunningham called it — “our kryptonite.”

After a tight first half, Coronado put the game out of reach with a big third quarter and the Cougars, No. 3 in the Review-Journal’s Class 5A rankings, held on for a 60-49 road win at No. 1 Liberty on Monday night.

“We felt like we had to get our revenge. That’s what this was,” Cunningham said. “It means a lot now. We want to be the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and we want to stay there so we have an easier path to the state championship.”

Cunningham scored 14 points and junior center Tee Bartlett scored a team-high 16 points for Coronado (16-10, 9-1). Sophomore guard Jonny Collins scored 11 points, junior forward Lantz Stephenson had 10 and junior forward JJ Buchanan added nine for the Cougars.

“They played together. They moved the basketball. They weren’t selfish. They defended. They did all the things that we asked them to do,” Coronado coach Jeff Kaufman said.

Coronado’s starters didn’t get much of a rest as its starting unit played the entire game. Monday was Coronado’s seventh game in 11 days in a stretch that included a win over Bishop Gorman on Jan. 20, a 20-point home loss to Centennial on Thursday and a 75-51 loss to Roosevelt (California) on Saturday.

“They were on their last legs, but they showed heart and resilience and that’s what makes you proud of kids,” Kaufman said.

Liberty (15-2, 6-1) led 25-24 at halftime, but Coronado exploded in the third quarter, outscoring the Patriots 21-6 to pull away. All five Coronado starters scored in the third as they attacked the basket and pushed the tempo.

“At halftime, the plan (for the second half) was to get out and go,” Kaufman said. “They moved the ball, they were able to attack them on the drive. (Bartlett) was able to get some good rebounds and we started hitting some shots.

Liberty would only get as close as nine points in the fourth quarter as Coronado controlled the time of possession in the quarter.

“We got a lead and once we had that run (in the third quarter), we knew we had to just keep it going and not let (Liberty) get back in the game because we would be in trouble,” Cunningham said.

After Liberty missed its first six shots of the game, the Patriots closed the first quarter on a 10-2 run to take a 10-8 lead.

The second quarter featured five lead changes. Liberty held Coronado scoreless the final 1:20 of the first half to take a slim halftime lead after a slower-paced first 16 minutes.

Kaufman said the game plan in the first half was to focus on moving the basketball and run “up and down” the floor with Liberty.

“Game management was the plan for this game,” Cunningham said. “If we had the ball, we could push it and speed it up if we could do it, but we had to be smart. Not turn it over, control the ball, and the game, and play at our speed, not (Liberty’s).”

Liberty sophomore point guard Tyus Thomas scored 12 points but managed just three points through the first three quarters. Sophomore forward Tyler Bright and senior guard Kaeden Castillero each scored nine points for the Patriots.

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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