Liberty Christian Girls Basketball: A New Beginning
by Steve Gamel
Liberty Christian girls basketball coach Ken Burroughs has had to retool his roster plenty of times over the years. And while Burroughs will never admit it, it’s safe to say he made it look easy.
Five state titles in 10 years – including back-to-back crowns in 2015 and 2016 – is proof of that.
This year may be his biggest challenge, though. Burroughs, 63, said goodbye to four Division I recruits following last season’s 48-43 win over Plano Prestonwood in the TAPPS 5A state final. All four seniors were four-year varsity starters and a big reason for Liberty’s success.
Never has Liberty lost so much at once, leaving an inexperienced group to mold into champions.
“We graduated all those girls, and they were a blessing while they were here,” Burroughs said. “On paper, we’re not what we were. But that doesn’t mean we can’t win in a different way.”
He admits it will be different, though.
Liberty’s success in recent years has been predicated on the foursome of Sydney Goodson (Arizona State), twin sisters Rebekah and Hannah Hand (Marist), and Kendall Ellig (Rice). Liberty also had a deep bench with plenty of talent, but it was obvious the longstanding championship expectations of the program rested on the big foursome.
Liberty was No. 1 in the large private schools state poll all last year, and last year’s state tournament appearance marked the program’s eighth trip to state in 10 years. In fact, the only year Liberty did not advance to the state tournament with its big foursome leading the charge was in 2014. Prior to winning the last two state crowns, the Lady Warriors’ last title was in 2011.
That’s a lot to lose all at once, but it’s not like Liberty is starting completely from scratch, either. Many of the girls that make up this year’s team have varsity experience, including seniors Tatum Barber and Addisyn Goodson, and juniors Kennedy Irwin and Sawyer Weed.
Barber scored a combined 20 points in Liberty’s two state tournament games last year, including 13 points in its 62-51 semifinal win over Tomball Concordia Lutheran.
New additions include point guard Brooke Lay, 6-foot-5-inch post player Bailey Lewis and sophomore guard Payton Oltrogge.
The interesting part, Burroughs said, will be seeing how these girls react in bigger roles. The season is already underway and the heart of the district schedule is still in front of them. Burroughs said the only way to manage those championship expectations is to realize this team must make its own mark, and take things one game at a time.
“We can only take it game by game and see where we are in the end,” Burroughs said. “It’s a great group of girls and they work extremely hard. Is the talent the same? No. But the work level can be. And if that happens, you just never know. It’s a new beginning, that’s all.”
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