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Liberty Invite: Canyon Springs tops hosts for tourney title

The Canyon Springs girls basketball team knew it could have this kind of performance.

It wasn’t even the three relatively easy pool play victories at the Liberty Thanksgiving Invitational on Friday and early Saturday that gave the team such assurance. Even in this almost-new season, the Pioneers already had enough experience to believe they could stick with host Liberty when the two unbeaten pool winners came face-to-face for the tournament title on late Saturday afternoon.

“We played them at the Halloween tournament at Coronado,” Canyon Springs coach Chris Walker said. “And we lost by four. We knew we could play with them. I think we can play with anybody if we stay focused and disciplined.”

Though the Pioneers fell behind early again on Saturday, they pushed their way back in front late in the first quarter and never trailed again to beat the Patriots, 61-46, to win the tournament.

“I hope you’ll put the emphasis on the passing,” Walker said. “We played early today (the 10 a.m. game in the last of pool play), so we had to really get them going with our preparation coming back this afternoon in warmups.”

It was evident from the start that sharing the basketball was the focus against Liberty, a Class 4A state finalist last year.

Canyon Springs recorded assists on four of its first eight field goals in the game. The Pioneers also had several good passes that put scorers in position to make an individual move and extend the lead.

Canyon Springs scored the game’s first five points before a 12-0 run from Liberty staked the Patriots to a 12-5 lead with 4 minutes, 33 seconds to go in the first quarter. Joy Watkins’ basket to culminate that spurt was the last the Patriots scored for more than two-and-a-half minutes.

Meanwhile, Canyon Springs forged back in front, 13-12, with 2:09 left in the quarter when Sydnei Collier made 1 of 3 free throws. Jeanette Fine’s 3-pointer at the first quarter buzzer gave the Pioneers a 22-17 lead that Liberty would threaten only once again.

The Pioneers extended the advantage to 34-22 at the half, and Kayla Johnson’s free throw with 7:28 to go in the third quarter pushed the advantage to 13.

“We should be able to find ways to win,” Liberty coach Chad Kapanui said. “You’ve got to outrebound your opponent. I haven’t seen the tape yet, but I am pretty sure we got outrebounded. You also can’t miss layups. I know how many we missed just since I was here.”

Kapanui, also the offensive coordinator for the Liberty football team, spent all of Friday and Saturday morning at the tournament before racing to Bishop Gorman for a 1 p.m. kickoff in the regional final. The Patriots’ football team lost that game, then he raced back to Liberty just in time to coach the second half of the championship game.

His team seemed to respond. Four Patriots scored during a 9-0 burst, capped by Journie Augmon’s shot inside to narrow the gap to 35-31. It was part of Augmon’s team-high 11 points. But Liberty never got closer.

“This just shows us what we can do in the future,” said Fine, who scored 15 points in the championship game and was named the tournament MVP. “We’re going to get better from here.”

Canyon Springs scored the game’s next two baskets, and by the time Johnson made back-to-back layups inside the final minute of the period, the Pioneers had extended the margin back to 46-35 with 20 seconds left in the third.

Johnson finished with a game-high 18 points for the Pioneers.

Canyon Springs 65, Liberty JV 26 — Collier led a balanced attack with 14 points as the Pioneers advanced to the title game by routing the Patriots’ junior varsity.

Ja’Moni Brown added nine points for Canyon Springs, which used a 30-3 second-quarter run to grab a 40-9 halftime lead.

Liberty 56, Bonanza 41 — Tiana Tovia scored 13 points to lead the Patriots past the Bengals and into the title game.

Augmon added 11 points for Liberty, which used a 19-2 second-quarter burst to grab a 35-12 halftime lead.

Aaliyah Booker paced Bonanza with 16 points, and teammate Macyn Raleigh scored 12.

Faith Lutheran 61, Bonanza 27 — Taylor Etopio scored 14 points as the Crusaders pulled away the Bengals in the third-place game.

Quianna Brown added 13 points for Faith Lutheran, which led only 22-14 at the half before a 39-13 second-half run put the out of reach.

Sade Booker led Bonanza with 14 points.

Faith Lutheran 48, Coronado 44 — Brown scored 16 points to help the Crusaders hold off the Cougars.

Etopio and Kelsey Howryla each added 10 points for Faith Lutheran, which led 25-15 at the half.

Sade Williams led Coronado with 12 points, and teammate Haley Morton scored 11.

Cimarron-Memorial 59, Desert Pines 49 — Elise Young led three double-figure scorers with 17 points as the Spartans rallied past the Jaguars.

Yesenia Wesley-Nash added 11 points, and Aaliyah Hanley scored 10 for Cimarron, which trailed 28-26 at the half.

Desert Pines’ Zeyana Pattillo led all scorers with 27 points.

Cimarron-Memorial 44, Rancho 23 — Young had 12 points, and the Spartans opened the game on a 21-2 run in a win over the Rams.

Sierra Crane led Rancho with eight points.

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