By JONATHAN GREENE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Coming into their game, PikeView knew they had to contain Liberty’s Levi Cook.
The 6-foot-10, 290-pound sophomore was able to finish with a double-double, but it was Austin Lyons and Matt Klucarich who stepped up to help guide the Raiders past the Panthers 83-66 on Thursday night.
“Levi Cook creates mismatches no matter what,” first-year PikeView coach Lindsay Jones said. “Their other kids stepped up tonight and hit a lot of big shots when we tried to go zone. That really hurt us.”
Cook dropped 25 points and grabbed 10 boards despite picking up four fouls and sitting out most of the fourth quarter.
The WVU-commit helped open up the floor for Lyons and Klucarich to knock down six three pointers. Liberty finished with eight treys.
“When we first came down here, we thought it was going to be a tough environment,” Liberty head coach Aaron Pauley said. “These guys play good at home. We’ve been telling these guys all week that when they come over here they were going to have to play.
“Our guys played well together especially having that many assistants. Everyone was getting involved. That was a good team win tonight.”
Liberty won the tip and scored four straight points off scores by Cook. PikeView answered with four straight points by Zach Meadows then Tanner Farley found Seth Wood open underneath the basket.
The teams traded baskets over the next few minutes before the Raiders closed the quarter on a 6-2 run to take a 16-14 lead.
Liberty opened the second quarter on a 12-2 run thanks to three’s by Lyons and Klucarich. A Meadows lay-in was PikeView’s only points. Jason Weitzel stopped the run with a drive as the Raiders built a 28-18 advantage.
“We started out the game man-to-man,” Jones said. “Levi was really hurting us so we thought we’d try to go zone to try to front and back him. Their kids stepped up and hit all those big three’s.”
Cook found an open Klucarich for an easy score then Lyons hit a three and converted a steal. Logan McKinney’s putback got the Panthers rolling. PikeView was able to close out the half on a 15-8 run to trim the deficit to 43-33.
“We went into Levi starting off and we kept going to him to get him some one-on-ones in the post,” Pauley said. “They started double and triple teaming him. He’s going to make that extra passes.
“We started to get some open three’s. When they double him down low and we start hitting three’s, we’re tough to guard.”
Liberty kept the pressure on PikeView with a 10-2 run to start the third quarter before the Panthers found their offensive rhythm. Meadows hit a three then Weitzel drove to the hoop for a score. Weitzel followed that with jumper and Tanner Farley connected on lay-in, but the Raiders were able to hold onto a 65-47 lead after 24 minutes.
“We were doing really well in the first quarter running what we wanted to, but we got away from it,” Jones said. “At halftime we talked about, we started running it again in the third quarter with success. Just like any young team, we got away from it again. I didn’t have enough timeouts tonight to call and get them refocused.”
With Cook on the bench with four fouls, Liberty went into a stall offense to begin the fourth quarter. It worked for several minutes before PikeView made one last rally.
Weitzel converted on a three-point play then had a putback. Meadows followed with a drive and Jonathan Burrell added a lay-in to cut the deficit to 70-57 with 2:51 remaining.
The Panthers were within 10, but that was as close as they would get.
“It was great,” Jones said of his team fighting until the end. “That’s one compliment about my guys – they don’t have any quit in them. If I hadn’t of told them to not stop fouling there at the end, they’d still be trying to win it with us down 20. That’s something good and we can always build off that.”
Liberty was able to put the game away late by making their free throws. Tre McDowell hit two and Lyons made seven of eight.
Pauley said, “That’s what we’ve been talking about all year. We were up by 27 against Summers County in the first half and we end up losing by two. Closing quarters and closing games has been our downfall.
“We’re young in age and young in experience with our older guys. That’s been our biggest key trying to close out quarters. I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”
Lyons finished with 25 points and seven steals for the Raiders. Klucarich had 14 points and Michael Prater added eight points and nine assists.
Meadows led PikeView with 21 points. Weitzel had 18 and McKinney finished with 12.
PikeView (3-6) visits Summers County on Saturday night while Liberty (5-3) travels to Nicholas County Friday.
At PikeView High School
Austin Lyons 25, Michael Prater 8, Levi Cook 25, Ryan Delaney 4, Tre McDowell 7, Matt Klucarich 14. Totals- 30 15-20 83.
Seth Wood 4, Bradley Flinchum 4, Austin Cordell 1, Jason Weitzel 18, Tanner Farley 4, Zach Meadows 21, Logan McKinney 12, Jonathan Burrell 2. Totals- 28 9-11 66.
Liberty.................................16 27 22 18 – 66
PikeView.............................14 19 14 19 – 83
3 pt field goals: LIB 8 (Lyons 4, Prater 2, Klucarich 2); PV 1 (Meadows).