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No. 10 Eagles pull away from Liberty

by Rob Peirce

SPORTS WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- For roughly three quarters, Liberty hung around against the No. 10 team in Class AAA. That's partly because Robert C. Byrd still felt lingering effects from their bout with the defending state champions.

After a sluggish start, the Eagles (5-1, 2-0 Big 10), led by Migel Lockett's 20 points, put some distance between Liberty (2-6, 0-3) for a 71-41 victory Friday at Liberty High School.

Two days earlier, Robert C. Byrd led Class AAA champion Parkersburg South after three quarters but fell apart in the fourth for its only loss this season. Eagles coach Bill Bennett admits he was concerned about a letdown against Liberty.

"I give these guys too much credit sometimes, because I didn't think that would happen this time, but it did," Bennett said.

Lockett and Matt Godfrey played a two-man game to lead the Eagles on an early 10-0 run against Liberty. Sharp passes picked apart the Mountaineers zone defense.

The zone was installed mostly because it was the best chance to stop the Eagles quickness, Liberty coach Russ Nutt said. But a solid floor vision kept Robert C. Byrd attacking.

"We have some kids who can really see the floor well," Bennett said. "Our kids understand how to attack a zone when we're patient. They move behind the zone fairly well. The other part is you have to have people out front who are looking for those guys. We have some guys who can deliver the ball."

Lockett had three assists and three steals to go with his 20 points. But after he picked up his second personal foul just 4:05 into the game, it acted as a neutralizer of sorts.

From that point until halftime, Robert C. Byrd outscored the Mountaineers by just six points. Liberty's Dallion Lewis was a big reason for that. Lewis, a 6-foot-4 forward, had 11 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

"We were hoping to use our size as an advantage a little more, but that's part of the learning process -- how do you do that against that kind of quickness," Liberty coach Russ Nutt said.

The Mountaineers kept it close in the second half. Robert C. Byrd's lead got no bigger than 12 until Lockett hit a 3-pointer with 2:32 left in the third. This started a spurt of 14 of Lockett's points, including his four 3-pointers.

Matt Godfrey and Nick Alex also reached double figures for Robert C. Byrd. Godfrey had 11 points and seven rebounds, and Alex scored 10 points. Matt Bealko had eight points and seven rebounds before leaving the game with an injury late in the third quarter. Eugene Weekley led the team off the bench with eight points, including two 3-pointers, and two steals.

During the late stretch, the Eagles bumped their lead from 15 to 30 and took Liberty out of a possible comeback. The Mountaineers dropped their fifth straight game. Greg Bennett led the team with 12 points, and Marcus Broadwater scored 10 along with six rebounds.

"We've just got to work a little harder, mentally and physically, to finish the fourth quarter," Nutt said. "We were in it. The four previous games we should have won."

Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at rpeirce@exponent-telegram.com.