STRAFFORD — Despite taking it on the chin in Strafford on Saturday (the Lady Indians won 86-48, their 77th straight win) on Saturday, the Mountain View-Birch Tree Liberty Eagles are in the midst of a standout season of its own and hope the experience of playing the state’s No. 1 ranked Class 3 team will pay off in the future.
Liberty is now 13-7 this season and entered Saturday’s game having won three of its last four. They have one of the area’s premier players in 2019 guard Piper Francis, who scored 28 points in Saturday’s loss.
“We just played a very good team and that is a program that we would like to emulate,” Liberty head coach Eli Ernst said. “We’re in year 1 with a new coach and the players this year are new to me and I’m new to them and that is what we are striving to become.
“Granted we know we’re not there yet, but you don’t get there without playing them to know what it looks like.”
While Strafford has several elite players, including 2019 Mizzou recruit Hayley Frank, Liberty is led by its own 2019 standout, Piper Francis, who has put together a big season for the Eagles.
The Eagles are currently have two players out of the line-up with ACL injuries and have suffered several other mishaps this season.
“We’ve had an array of things go on,” Ernst said. “But to go through all the things we’ve had to go through to get here is going to be our strong suit.”
Leading the way is Francis, a 5’10 2019 guard who is among the area’s premier players. Fracnis has already scored 1,700 career points and is averaging 24.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.7 steals per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range. She leads the Lady Eagles with 36 3-pointers made this season.
Francis has already begun to draw attention from college coaches and Ernst says he is excited about her upside as a player.
“She is a great player and we know we have got there, we’re pretty excited about who she is but even more excited about who she can become,” he said.
Twins Marissa Berry and Madison Berry are 5’3 senior guards and can both handle the ball and bring a tough, team-first attitude. Marissa Berry is averaging 5.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and has knocked down 24 3-pointers while shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.
Madison Berry is good off the bounce and can get to the basket and finish. She is averaging 9.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists and has made 23 3-pointers.
Also in the mix this season is Brooke Taylor, a 5’6 senior forward who has played in seven varsity games.
Also in the mix this season is 5’7 junior Kamryn Gastineau and sophomores Kaitlyn King and Kinley Richards. Gastineau is averaging 9.6 points, leads the team in rebounding at 7.6 per game and is averaging 2.6 steals per game as well.
“She is an all-around player who does a lot of the little things that don’t show up on stat sheets,” xx said. “She is a kid that will dive on the floor and rebounds real hard for 5’7 … we lean on her quite a bit.
A 5’10 sophomore post, Kaitlyn King opened the season on the JV but is now starting for the varsity.
“Her growth and development during the time when other kids were out and she had to step in and play big minutes, those trials are going to make our team better,” Ernst said.
Ernst says Richards has a high basketball IQ and knows how to play the game. She comes from a basketball family as her cousin is former Rogersville and Missouri State standout Drew Richards.
“We’re pretty blessed to have that as our core foundation in our first year and hope to grow and blossom into something like what Strafford looked like tonight,” Ernst said.