IOWA CITY — Let’s see if we can get this straight.
Iowa City Liberty’s boys’ basketball team had its first four games of the season postponed or canceled because the Iowa City Community School District was teaching classes online only in early December. No in-person learning meant no play.
The Lightning finally got in two contests right before Christmas, with the holiday break bringing another 13-day gameless drought, if you will. A win over crosstown foe Iowa City High occurred Jan. 5, but the new year brought more misfortune, as a COVID-19 quarantine put the program on pause for two weeks, meaning three more games were axed.
Finally, finally, finally Liberty was able to play again this weekend and won in back-to-back nights, including a gut-it-out, 48-40 affair Saturday night over Cedar Rapids Xavier.
“This has been a really different and odd season,” Liberty’s Kelby Telander said in a massive understatement. “It was nothing anyone was expecting at all. But in the end, it has brought us all closer and stuff. It has helped teach us to work through adversity. Handle things off the court when you can’t be on the court, inside the building. You find a gym someplace, some gym space to shoot and stuff.”
The thing is Liberty is perfect thus far in this stop-start-stop-start season, 5-0. The Lightning went into the week ranked sixth in Class 4A.
With so little time left before the postseason, Liberty will have at least a handful of originally scheduled games just simply canceled. That’s especially unfortunate for the seven seniors on the roster.
But it is what it is, and this group says it is determined to make the absolute best of what’s left.
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“The games are so limited, every game matters, every moment matters,” said Telander. “You’ve got to give 100 percent. It has taught us so much.”
“I think we’ve done a really good job with the kids about being positive and trying to look at the adversity aspect of it,” said Liberty Co-Coach Ryan Kelly. “They’ve just done a really fantastic job. We had a really hard practice on Wednesday after having 14 days off. But I think right now these guys understand and cherish the opportunity to get out on the court with each other.”
This wasn’t a pretty game, a mostly slug-it-out, half-court affair. Liberty went up by eight points at halftime, stretched its advantage to double figures in the third quarter, but Xavier (6-7) would never completely go away.
Forward Telander and guard Ira Hazeltine had 11 points each for the Lightning, with all of Hazeltine’s coming in the first half, including three treys. Sophomore Aidan McDermott had 11 points and Max Kaiser 10 for Xavier, which also was playing for a second-consecutive night.
“That was a little disappointing tonight,” said Xavier Coach Mike Freeman. “We didn’t do the little things well, and Liberty makes you have to do the little things well. All the credit to them.”
By the way, Liberty has had only 19 practices this season with its entire team. Crazy, right?
“I thought our defensive intensity was good,” said Liberty Co-Coach Stu Ordman, who has announced he will step down at the school after this season, with Kelly taking over the program completely. “We knew that Xavier would be patient and run really good screening action. And they play real hard. So I thought for most part, our defense did pretty well.”
AT IOWA CITY
C.R. XAVIER (40): Aidan McDermott 5-9 1-3 1, Jack Goldsmith 1-2 0-1 2, Max Kaiser 4-10 0-0 10, Sean Steffen 3-6 0-0 6, Brody Hoffman 0-0 0-0 0, Aidan Yamilkoski 3-9 2-2 9, Jack Breitbach 1-6 0-0 2, Nick Kramer 0-2 0-0 0, Matthew Schmit 0-1 0-0 0, Lincoln Oakley 0-0 0-0 0, Quin Fandel 0-0 0-0 0, Trysten Vasquez 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-45 3-6 40.
IOWA CITY LIBERTY (48): Basil Aldoss 2-6 3-4 7, Ethan O’Donnell 2-9 3-4 7, Kelby Telander 4-9 3-5 11, Ira Hazeltine 4-6 0-0 11, Grayson Tyler 2-2 0-0 6, Cody Shroeder 1-3 0-1 3, Griffin Kraft 1-1 1-2 3, Max Beckman 0-1 0-0 0, Ja’Quez Hall 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 16-39 10-16 48.
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Halftime — Liberty 29, Xavier 21. 3-point goals — Xavier 3-16 (McDermott 0-2, Kaiser 2-5, Steffen 0-2, Yamilkoski 1-5, Breitbach 0-1, Schmit 0-1), Liberty 6-15 (Aldoss 0-1, O’Donnell 0-3, Hazeltine 3-5, Tyler 2-2, Shroeder 1-3, Hall 0-1). Rebounds — Xavier 24 (Kaiser 5), Liberty 33 (Aldoss, O’Donnell 8). Total fouls — Xavier 19, Liberty 14. Fouled out — None. Turnovers — Xavier 13, Liberty 16.
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