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Liberty boys basketball pulls away for 71-61 victory over rival Century

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When it comes to the Century-Liberty rivalry, everyone has a favorite memory, or a “Where were you when … ” moment that strengthened an undying allegiance to one side or the other.

For Liberty coach George Sinnott, it may be hard for him to find a better moment than Friday night’s game.

After over 15 years with the program, Sinnott finally roamed the sideline as the head coach of Liberty boys basketball, beaming with pride as the final seconds ticked off the clock and his Lions walked away with a 71-61 win.

“I’m honestly just happy for my players,” Sinnott said. “We knew the build up going in and it’s nice to come out with the big win.”

While some teams may press the issue in big games, the Lions stuck with what has brought them success this season: the duo of Cole Jernigan and Tristan West.

West was a force from the opening tip, providing an anchor on the defensive end and a tough inside presence on offense. In the opening quarter alone, West had six points, three rebounds, an assist and a thunderous blocked shot that got the Liberty student section buzzing.

“The thing with Tristan is when he wants to, no one can stop him,” Sinnott said. “He’s not afraid to bang down low and put his body on the line for the team and that’s what makes him great.”

An offensive flurry from Nick Baron wasn’t enough for the Knights as Jernigan quickly answered with tough inside buckets, sticking to his bread and butter and fearlessly driving to the basket.

As the game got predictably physical inside, Jernigan stayed tough, hitting the final couple shots that gave Liberty a five-point halftime lead.

With both teams coming out in the second half armed with important adjustments, the Lions found themselves in a bit of trouble. Century came out in the second half refusing to let West and Jernigan bully their way to victory. The Knights countered by attacking with their own inside force in Ben Chenoweth.

Liberty didn’t overcorrect, instead adjusting themselves, using guard Aaron Bald.

  • Liberty #13, Cole Jerrigan is met in the paint by...

    Liberty #13, Cole Jerrigan is met in the paint by Century #1, Jackson Smith and #22 Ryn Matthews. Century High School Boys Basketball at Liberty High School (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Liberty's Alex Thompson, left, drives past his Century defender near...

    Liberty's Alex Thompson, left, drives past his Century defender near the foul line on his way to the rim. (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Century's Nathan Brown drives down the court on a fast...

    Century's Nathan Brown drives down the court on a fast break, guarded closely by Liberty's Aaron Bald. (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Liberty's Cole Jernigan finishes a fast break with a layup...

    Liberty's Cole Jernigan finishes a fast break with a layup during Friday's game against Century. (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Century #3, Nathan Brown pulls up for a jumper at...

    Century #3, Nathan Brown pulls up for a jumper at the foul line over Liberty defender #14, Brady Berger. Century High School Boys Basketball at Liberty High School (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Liberty #13, Cole Jerrigan shoots the second of his free...

    Liberty #13, Cole Jerrigan shoots the second of his free throws after being fouled on a shot. Century High School Boys Basketball at Liberty High School (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Liberty #10, Max Thonpson, has Century defender #12, Mason Hendricks,...

    Liberty #10, Max Thonpson, has Century defender #12, Mason Hendricks, on his hip as he tries to finish his drive. Century High School Boys Basketball at Liberty High School (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Century #33, Ben Chenoweth, takes flight over a Liberty defender...

    Century #33, Ben Chenoweth, takes flight over a Liberty defender waiting in the paint. Century High School Boys Basketball at Liberty High School (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Liberty #13, Cole Jerrigan has a baseline layup blocked by...

    Liberty #13, Cole Jerrigan has a baseline layup blocked by Century #1, Jackson Smith. Century High School Boys Basketball at Liberty High School (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Liberty #13, Cole Jerrigan shoots two free throws in the...

    Liberty #13, Cole Jerrigan shoots two free throws in the first quarter. Century High School Boys Basketball at Liberty High School (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Century #33, Ben Chenoweth, passes the ball away from Liberty...

    Century #33, Ben Chenoweth, passes the ball away from Liberty defenders #10 Max Thompson and #15 Tristan West after an offensive rebound. Century High School Boys Basketball at Liberty High School (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Century #2, Peyton Conrad, shoots a three pointer from behind...

    Century #2, Peyton Conrad, shoots a three pointer from behind the arch over Liberty #2, Christian Szarico. Century High School Boys Basketball at Liberty High School (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Liberty's Cole Jernigan looks for room to shoot while being...

    Liberty's Cole Jernigan looks for room to shoot while being defended by Century's Nick Baron. (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • A Century player's baseline drive is cut off by two...

    A Century player's baseline drive is cut off by two waiting Liberty defenders. Century High School Boys Basketball at Liberty High School (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Century #3, Nathan Brown finishes at the rim in the...

    Century #3, Nathan Brown finishes at the rim in the second quarter. Century High School Boys Basketball at Liberty High School (Chris Berry/Freelance)

  • Century #33, Ben Chenoweth, watches as his three pointer takes...

    Century #33, Ben Chenoweth, watches as his three pointer takes flight. Century High School Boys Basketball at Liberty High School (Chris Berry/Freelance)

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Bald had a tremendous third quarter, scoring eight of his 12 points as he took advantage of all the attention paid to the Lions inside attack. When two or three defenders committed to West in the post, Bald would slip right past the Knights with a savvy backdoor cut, making the Knights pay time and time again.

“I just took advantage of my opportunities,” Bald said. “Tristan was able to find me open and it made it easy for me to score.”

Sinnott knows using West in a variety of ways is necessary to get the best out of the big man and the rest of his squad.

“We don’t rely on the 3-point shot as much as other teams,” he said. “So when you have good passers like Tristan and Cole, you work on the other guys cutting off the ball and finding ways to get open. When we do that, good things happen for us.”

With a couple of baskets needed to seal the game once and for all, Jernigan became the go-to guy. The senior who finished with a game-high 24 points took his turn being the focal point of the offense.

After hitting the final shots and sealing the deal, the Lions were all smiles as they took Round 1 of perhaps the county’s most storied and heated rivalry.

“This was a good team win,” West said. “Obviously it means a little more, that feeling after a win against Century, there’s nothing like it.”

Liberty 71. Century 61

L- Cole Jernigan (24), Tristan West (15), Aaron Bald (12), Alex Thompson (11), Jayden Zumbrun (4), Christian Szarko (2), Brady Bergen (2), Ethan Hart (1)

C-  Ben Chenoweth (15), Nick Baron (13), Peyton Conrad (13), Nathan Brown (7), Jackson Smith (4), Mason Hendricks (4), Ryan Matthews (3), Dan Riley (2)

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