After years of losing, guard Alex Rivas is leading Liberty’s sudden change of pace.
Tuesday, Rivas scored eight points — all in the first half — grabbed five boards, swiped six steals and tossed out seven assists, as the surprising 5A Lancers (4-2) coasted past 4A host Vista Ridge 62-41.
“This year is much more fun,” said Rivas, a senior whose team won a combined six games the past two seasons. “The team has a lot more chemistry and we don’t have to rely on one player.”
Well, sort of.
“We go as Alex goes,” Liberty coach Annie Reed said. “She is our leader out there.”
And she’s arguably their best player, even when she shoots 3-for-14 from the field like she did Tuesday.
In fact, the 5-foot-5 guard controlled the pace from start to finish. She darted through open lanes, she found her teammates for the easy layups and defensively, she frustrated Vista Ridge (3-2).
The quick turn of events had Vista Ridge coach Amelia Tillman barking at her team and wondering aloud what happened.
Early Tuesday night though, the Wolves kept pace, trailing the Lancers 24-23 with 1:20 left in the second quarter. Then, the pace suddenly sped up.
In the waning 80 seconds of the half, Rivas picked off the Wolves twice, made two assists and dropped in a bucket of her own as Liberty went into the locker room on a 9-1 run, up 33-24.
And for Vista Ridge, in front of a crowd frantically trying to chant and sing its team to rally, one bad note tuned to another in the second half.
“Our defense just kept pressing,” Reed said. “And we got more turnovers and just kind of took the game from there.”
Fellow senior Amanda Dix scored a game-high 15 points for the Lancers, including her team’s only two 3s, and freshman Brooke Shade added nine.
“We can’t let this get to our heads. We don’t blow people out too often,” Rivas said. “But it was nice to see us take off tonight.”
Late in the game, the Wolves went on a pint-size run, thanks partially to poor free-throw shooting from Liberty (12-for-28).
But this night highlighted, perhaps, a sleeper team in the 5A Metro League. And it starts and ends with Rivas.