Prep Basketball

Resurgent Iowa City High boys' basketball gets clutch play by Byron Benton to knock off Liberty

Little Hawks improve to 3-2 with 41-38 win

Iowa City High Little Hawks
Iowa City High Little Hawks

NORTH LIBERTY — You can feel the confidence and momentum growing week by week, day by day, game by game.

Minute by minute, in this case. Second by second.

“I’d like to think so,” first-year head coach Brennan Swayzer said, after his Little Hawks dealt Iowa City Liberty a 41-38 loss Friday night. “I feel like this is something the guys were always capable of, but they didn’t believe they were capable of it.”

Guard Byron Benton’s and-one three-point play off a drive to the lane with 11 seconds left provided the winning points for City High, which takes a 3-2 record into the holiday break. That might not sound like much, but consider where these Little Hawks have been.

They were 5-17 a season ago, a team full of fragile physches. When something went wrong, they assumed the worst was inevitable.

Maybe, just maybe, that’s not the case anymore.

“Not trying to let it get to our heads, though,” Benton said. “Treat it like it was any other game.”

This win was a gut check and them some. City High saw its best player (senior wing Keshawn Christian) have to leave with a probable concussion in the second half and one of its starting guards (sophomore Jamari Newson) foul out.

Liberty (4-1) surged to a 38-35 lead on an Andre Brandon drive with 51.9 seconds left, but he missed an ensuing free throw. That was THE story of the game for the Lightning, who went 5 for 19 from the stripe.

Benton came right back down court, was fouled and hit two free throws to make it a 38-37 game with 40.9 to go. Two more missed Liberty free throws with 19 seconds left gave City High its golden opportunity, which Benton cashed in.

“I just wanted to get the ball down fast and get down to the lane and not settle,” he said. “Coach drew one up for me to get to the hole off a screen. I used it and finished it.”

Liberty missed a 3-point attempt well beyond the arc to win it, City High rebounded, and Benton was fouled again. He made his first free throw and missed his second, with Brandon’s half-court rainbow at the buzzer hitting the back bracket.

Benton led everyone in scoring with 17 points. Kelby Telander was terrific off the bench for Liberty with a team-high 14.

“This is huge, especially going into break,” Swayzer said. “It’s the last game, that was a really good team, it’s a conference win, they got us twice last year. We got over several hurdles tonight. This is huge for the direction we’re trying to go and what we’re trying to do with our program.”

AT IOWA CITY LIBERTY

IOWA CITY HIGH (41): Kolby Kucera 0-6 0-0 0, Raph Hamilton 0-2 0-0 0, Keshawn Christian 0-5 3-4 3, Byron Benton 4-8 8-10 17, Jamari Newson 3-7 0-2 6, Keyoun Agee 2-5 2-4 6, Andre Miller 2-4 0-0 6, Kaleba Jack 1-1 1-2 3. Totals 12-38 14-22 41.

IOWA CITY LIBERTY (38): Sam Funke 4-7 0-0 8, Ben Houselog 0-1 2-7 2, Andre Brandon 3-9 2-5 8, Basil Aldoss 1-7 0-0 2, Ira Hazeltine 0-5 0-0 0, Ethan O’Donnell 2-2 0-2 4, Kelby Telander 6-9 1-5 14, Savion Taylor 0-1 0-0 0, Cody Schroeder 0-2 0-0 0, Colin Shults 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-44 5-19 38.

Halftime — City High 24, Liberty 16. 3-point goals — City High 3-14 (Kucera 0-4, Newson 0-2, Benton 1-2, Christian 0-1, Agee 0-1, Miller 2-4), Liberty 1-13 (Houselog 0-1, Aldoss 0-1, Hazeltine 0-4, Brandon 0-1, O’Donnell 0-2, Telander 1-2, Taylor 0-1, Schroeder 0-1). Rebounds — City High 33 (Newson 7), Liberty 34 (Brandon 8). Total fouls — City High 18, Liberty 20. Fouled out — Newson. Turnovers — City High 13, Liberty 9.

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.