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Lions look for regional, regular season redemption Saturday at New Castle

Mar. 7—NEW CASTLE — The reminders are taped up all over the Liberty Christian basketball locker room on sheets of paper. Four digits aligned to create a pair of numbers that represent the final result of one of the most painful losses in the program's history.

54-52.

That was the score of last year's regional championship game against Fountain Central after the Lions allowed an eight-point fourth-quarter lead to slip away in the closing seconds. Coach Norman Anderson is not going to allow this year's team to forget the feeling of that day as his team heads to New Castle on Saturday for a shot at a double dose of regional reciprocity.

"We have (54-52) posted in everyone's locker, on the door, and on the board," Anderson said. "I show them that film of the last two minutes, and that stung, and it stings. We don't want that to happen again."

With the memories of that loss a year ago still fresh in their minds, the Lions also would like to pay back Seton Catholic (19-7) for a 67-57 defeat the Cardinals handed LC on Jan. 12, the only loss the Lions suffered this year at the hands of a fellow Class 1A school.

Liberty Christian (16-9) will face the Cardinals on Saturday at the New Castle Fieldhouse at 1 p.m., seeking its first regional title since the 2016 state championship season.

Much of the Lions' focus will fall on 6-foot-8 senior Mason Harvey, who led the Cardinals at 21.6 points, 12.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game. He shoots 39% from 3-point range and 84% at the free-throw line and scored 24 points in the first matchup up after a first-quarter injury to Liberty senior Devon Kelley cost the Lions their top defender.

Kelley has been longing for this rematch.

"Oh, I want this matchup big time," he said. "We're going to play them the same way. ... I could show you the film of the first quarter, and you'd think we had the regional in the bag. They had no answer for (our defense)."

While Harvey will be the focal point, he is hardly alone for Seton.

Juniors Jason Moynihan (10.4 points, 7.4 rebounds) and Eric Parker (7.1 points) contribute as well, and Anderson knows it will take a full effort from his own players to keep the postseason alive.

"(Harvey) is a tough matchup, but I've got some tough guys," Anderson said. "I think my guys are up for the challenge, and we've been watching film. There were several things that went into that game at that time. I think we're a way better team now than we were then."

Kelley and fellow senior Jerramie Johnson are the two returning lettermen who played in last season's regional after six top seniors graduated from that team. The arrival of a trio of freshmen and the development of a number of other underclassmen has rendered the Lions one of the deepest teams around, playing as many as 10 players each game.

The freshmen are swingmen Tamarje English (12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds) and Kendrick Martin (11.4 points, 5.4 rebounds) and point guard Tywaine Fuller (8.2 points, 3.1 assists) while the emergence of junior forward A'Marien Page (4.8 points, 4.4 rebounds) and sophomore guards Jaloni Dixon and Jordan Haralson leave Anderson with plenty of options and combinations.

"As far as who is going to be the leading scorer, nobody cares about that," Anderson said. "Sacrifice whatever, get the win. That's what it's all about."

And for all the matchups and the subplots, whether the Lions can vanquish the memories of that 54-52 loss a year ago will come down to the usual keys, albeit in the largest venue — and probably one of the largest crowds — to see the team play.

"My kids have been battle tested," Anderson said. "The Madison County championship game at Frankton was a huge crowd. Our game (against) Brownsburg big crowd, Lawrence Central big crowd, (Arsenal) Tech big crowd. So that noise — our kids got used to it early. I think they're ready to rock and roll.

"Play for each other, play together and leave it all on the floor because it's all about the man upstairs, and that's who we're here to satisfy."

Contact Rob Hunt at

rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com

or 765-640-4886.