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Bolts battle Regals in preseason scrimmage

Regina tops Liberty girls, 67-33
Liberty’s Isabel Smith battles with Iowa City Regina’s Mary Crompton for the ball Tuesday, Nov. 14, at Liberty, in the preseason scrimmage. Smith, a sophomore, scored two points in the 67-33 loss to the Regals (photo by Chris Umscheid).

NORTH LIBERTY– Liberty High’s varsity girls basketball program made its home court debut Tuesday, Nov. 14, in a preseason scrimmage with Iowa City Regina. The Regals, who played in the 2017 Class 2A State Basketball Tournament, short-circuited the Lightning Bolts, 67-33.
The Regals already built up a significant lead when sophomore Cora Saunders sank a 3-point basket (the first varsity girls’ basket for a Liberty player, and the first 3-point basket for a Liberty player) to put the Lightning on the scoreboard. Saunders struck again with a second three-bomb following a 2-point bucket from sophomore Sam McPherson. Abby Henderson, the sole senior on the squad and a transfer from West High, sank a three-pointer as did McPherson. Liberty trailed, 39-20, at halftime. Kayli Baldwin made it a 57-27 ballgame in the third period with a 3-point basket, while Saunders hit her third three-bomb with 5:08 remaining in the ballgame.
Saunders and McPherson led the Lightning with nine points each.
The game also marked the debut of Varsity Head Coach Jamie Brandt, who joined Liberty’s athletic program in May. Brandt, formerly Jamie Printy, is a 2009 Linn-Mar graduate who led the Lady Lions to three state tournament appearances with 1,391 points in her high school career. Brandt scored 1,841 points for Head Coach Lisa Bluder and the Iowa Hawkeyes, was named the Big 10 Freshman of the year in 2010, and helped the Hawks to the NCAA Tournament all four years.
Brandt assisted Michael Brandt (no relation) for one season at Linn-Mar before taking over the top job for three years. The Lady Lions went 48-24 and made the Class 5A state semifinals in 2016.
“I loved being at Linn-Mar and I loved the girls there,” she said, but being closer to home, her family lives in Iowa City, and, “the excitement of starting something new and building your own program” drew her to Liberty.
“Linn-Mar has been good at basketball and has been to the state tournament, and this school hasn’t done any of that, yet. So, the opportunity of getting to start a group that’s young, and make an impact on them, and watch them grow is really exciting to me,” She said.
The team had six practices prior to the scrimmage.
“Honestly, coming in (to the scrimmage), I didn’t know what to expect,” Brandt said. “We’re such a young group, and we’re going up against an experienced Regina state tournament team. I just couldn’t be more proud of the way that we played hard, and we played together.”
In addition to Henderson, the only other upperclassmen are juniors Megan Davis and Lily Anderson. The rest of the squad consists of sophomores; Isabel Smith, Cecily Johnston, Sam McPherson, Brylee Klosterman, Cora Saunders, Kayli Baldwin and Neshy Byrd; and two freshmen: Emily Larsen and Jenna Saunders.
The Lightning Bolts were especially scrappy against the Regals, a quality not unnoticed by Brandt, who said, “Something that I can’t teach and I can’t coach is that aggressiveness and that willing to win. I can teach them X’s and O’s and all that stuff, but their passion and the way that they played together and played hard… shows that we have so much room to improve, that we could do some damage this year.”
The varsity girls are the latest in an ever-growing line of firsts for the school, and Coach Brandt says they’ve talked about their unique position. “We’ve been talking about building a culture on our team and what we want Liberty girls basketball to be like.”
She said the discussion seems to be geared more toward off-court behavior with an eye toward setting an example for their classmates, future Bolts and the community at-large. “On the court, it’s a willingness to play hard, play together and do it for your teammates.” So far, she said, “They’ve really bought into it.”
Liberty High will join the Mississippi Valley Conference (MVC) in the 2018-19 academic year, so is unaffiliated, not in an athletic conference, currently. This means the Lightning will play a mix of programs, large and small, and from a variety of conferences, including the MVC and WaMaC. Liberty is eligible for postseason play, as well as the 2018 state tournament.
The season opened Tuesday, Nov. 21, on the road in Fairfield. The Lightning host Mount Vernon on Monday, Nov. 27, with a 7:30 p.m. varsity tip-off.

2017-2018 Liberty High
Varsity Girls Basketball Schedule

Sat. Nov. 25 AT Waterloo West 6:30 p.m.
Mon. Nov. 27 HOME Vs. Mount Vernon 7:30 p.m.
Sat. Dec. 2 AT Cedar Rapids Jefferson 2:30 p.m.
Mon. Dec. 4 AT Washington (Iowa) 7:45 p.m.
Sat. Dec. 9 HOME Vs. CP-Urbana 6 p.m.
Thurs. Dec. 14 HOME Vs. Williamsburg 7:30 p.m.
Sat. Dec. 16 HOME Vs. Fort Madison 6:30 p.m.
Tues. Dec. 19 AT Northeast Gooselake 7 p.m.
Fri. Dec. 22 AT Keokuk 7:15 p.m.
Tues. Jan. 2 HOME Vs. Dbq Hempstead 7:30 p.m.
Sat. Jan. 6 HOME Vs. CCA 5 p.m.
Fri. Jan. 12 AT Waverly-Shell Rock 6 p.m.
Tues. Jan. 16 AT Dubuque Wahlert 7:30 p.m.
Sat. Jan. 20 AT Cascade 5 p.m.
Fri. Jan. 26 HOME Vs. Fairfield 6:15 p.m.
Tues. Jan. 30 HOME Vs. CR Kennedy 7:30 p.m.
Sat. Feb. 3 HOME Vs. West Delaware 5 p.m.
Tues. Feb. 6 HOME Vs. Bellevue 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Feb. 9 AT Central DeWitt 7:30 p.m.
Mon. Feb. 12 AT CR Washington 7:30 p.m.
Wed. Feb. 14 Regional, TBD 7 p.m.
Sat. Feb. 17 Regional, TBD 7 p.m.
Tues. Feb. 20 Regional, TBD 7 p.m.
Mon. Feb. 26 State Tournament, Des Mns