RENTON – The bigger the challenge, the better Rebekah Campbell likes it.
She and her Liberty High School girls basketball team faced a daunting one Wednesday night in a KingCo 3A/2A showdown against second-ranked, unbeaten Juanita.
And the No. 9 Patriots proved they were up for it as Campbell fueled a late surge that keyed a 61-54 victory.
“We need to step up to a challenge,” the 6-foot senior said after scoring nine of her 13 points in the final 2:10. “It’s hard for us to play a lower team because we lose our focus. But these teams, we usually come out ready to play.”
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The Pats (10-3, 6-1) love playing giant-killer. Over the past few weeks, they’ve taken down two teams that were ranked No. 3 in the state at the time — Everett and Bellevue.
And now this, which caused Liberty fans to storm the court after the final buzzer.
Juanita (13-1, 7-1), which came in as the final unbeaten 3A team in the state, was without leading scorer Tea Adams, who rested a sore shoulder she injured in Monday’s victory over Bellevue. The 5-foot-8 freshman averages 16.2 points per game.
But the Rebels have plenty of other weapons — Jaisa Nunn poured in 23, while Shalexxus Aaron and Shannon Brink had 10 apiece — and coach Sam Lee didn’t make any excuses.
“They’re a good team, and they just beat us,” he said.
The Patriots took Juanita to overtime before losing when the teams first met this season at Juanita, and their only other losses have been to 4A teams. Still, they feel like they’ve been flying under the radar.
“Hopefully our name is recognized at this point,” Campbell said.
Juanita led for much of the game — by as many as seven points early in the second quarter. But the Patriots never let them pull away. A three-pointer by Ashlyn Applegate gave Liberty a 50-46 advantage, and Campbell followed with a long three with the shot-clock winding down that stretched it to 53-46 with 2:10 on the clock. She made four free throws in the final 36 seconds to help seal the victory.
Applegate finished with a team-high 16 points.