SPOKANE — In Mark Lovelady’s long 24-year career, not many teams have carried as much of a personal connection as this year’s team.
Which made it all the more tough to see his eight seniors, his son Luke Lovelady and his team of “brothers” come short of its goal of a state championship, like it did Friday evening at the Spokane Arena in a 57-49 loss to Liberty of Spangle.
“It’s tough when you see your son in there crying with all of his buddies that he’s known since preschool and kindergarten and they’re at my house all the time and here they are now,” Lovelady said. “You put so much time and energy into something just to see it not come to a championship — that’s life.”
LCA plays No. in the 3rd/5th place game at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Luke Lovelady posted a near triple-double with 23 points, 13 rebounds and all nine of LCA’s blocks. The Eagles finished 0 for 10 from 3-point range.
But the resounding difference in play was Liberty’s physicality.
“Their team is a big, physical football team,” Mark Lovelady said. “And they out-physicaled us a little bit. You could tell they had a little bit more strength than they did. … that’s pretty much what dictates the game.”
Aside from an early lead in the game’s opening moments, the Eagles trailed the entire game.
LCA held out for one final attempt at a comeback.
Down by as much as eight multiple points in the second half, the Eagles brought the score within three with just over two minutes to play. Noah Robinson scored in transition, then Lovelady completed a 3-point play to bring it to 52-49 with around two minutes to go.
Sophomore Eric Overgaard called it a gut-check.
“We never stepped that foot off the pedal,” Overgaard said. “We were never going to stop before that buzzer sounded. We have too much heart for that. We just kept going. Just gave it our all, put our heart on our sleeves and played.”
Liberty’s Brandon Holling cleaned up a miss from Tyler Haas to put Liberty up five points — two possessions — on the ensuing possession. The last two trips down the floor for LCA came up empty, as sophomore guard Eric Overgaard and senior guard Anthony Kunitsa missed on consecutive 3s.
Haas hit the game-sealing free throws in the final seconds.
Chase Burnham, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, carried the load offensively for the Lancers. He hit three 3s in the first half, where he had 15 of his 23 points. He hit three quick 3s at the start.
“We talked about that, we put him down as a level-one shooter, which for us we don’t give any good looks,” Mark Lovelady said. “There’s several times where he came off screens and had open 3s. Part of that is they do a lot of actions down below to get them open.”
Liberty of Spangle advances to the 2B state finals Saturday at 9 p.m. against No. 1 Kittitas, who rallied to defeat No. 11 St. George’s earlier Friday.
No. 12 Liberty (Spangle) 16 16 13 12 — 57
No. 2 Life Christian Academy 13 14 12 10 — 47
Liberty: Holling 4, Haas 16, Paredes 2, Burnham 20, Redder 5, Nave 2, Jeske 4, Ottmar 4.
Life Christian Academy: Overgaard 2, Shamp 0, Kunitsa 3, Lovelady 23, Kovacs 6, Woomer 0, Robinson 15, Shamp 0, Donaldson 0.