After seeing what Brady Arnold could do against his squad in the first half, Liberty coach Greg Nossaman decided he was going to make someone other than the dynamic junior of West Holmes beat his Patriots.
Arnold torched Liberty for 19 points in the first half, helping the Knights build a 45-43 lead.
But a box-and-one defense limited Arnold to four points the rest of the way, and Liberty handed the Knights their first loss of the season, 72-63 in the fourth game of the WQKT-Steve Smith Holiday Hoops Classic at Timken Gymnasium Saturday at The College of Wooster.
"That was the biggest thing we talked about. If they want to do that, then someone else is going to have to go get his (points)," West Holmes coach Jim Lindeman said. "We just didn't step up like we have. I'm confident from here on out, somebody will."
"We went a little box-and-one on Arnold. He's a great player. He went for 19 in the first half to four in the second half," Nossaman said. "That was the difference in the game right there."
"I thought they were a little bigger than us, but we did a nice job on the interior," he added. "Once we got the lead, we managed the clock well and spread them out. We got some pretty good guards that defend well."
The Patriots looked like they were going to run away with things in the first quarter, jumping out to a 22-11 advantage before the Knights got a three-point play from Ryan Neer and a drive and dish from Arnold to Brock Macaulay to trim the lead to 22-16.
After a Liberty timeout, the Patriots turned the ball over and Arnold hit a jumper to trim the lead to 22-18.
That's where the score stood after the opening eight minutes of action.
West Holmes went on an 11-2 run to start the second quarter, opening a five-point lead as the Patriots had no answer for Gabe Snyder inside. Snyder had nine of his 11 points in the first half, seven of them coming in a span of five possessions.
Arnold and Liberty senior guard Nick Nossaman put on a shooting display for a stretch of the second quarter, where Arnold started with a spinning layup in the lane to give the Knights a 36-31 lead.
The junior sharpshooter then hit a 3-pointer, one of six he drilled in the first half. And he was fouled, for a four-point play, giving the Knights a 40-34 lead.
Nossaman answered at the other end with a triple from just inside the half-court line.
Arnold came back, buried another deep one, only to have Nossaman answer with another pro-range triple.
When the smoke cleared at the end of the first half, West Holmes led 45-42.
Layne Perone came off the West Holmes bench to provide an offensive spark in the third quarter when Snyder was saddled with foul trouble. He scored four points on back-to-back possessions to give the Knights a 54-48 advantage late in the third quarter.
"I think that's a testament to Layne. He's still getting into basketball mode. He gave us some real good minutes tonight," Lindeman said. "It says a lot about him, staying upbeat and being ready to go whenever his name is called."
Michael DeLeon got his name called by the Patriots, and the 6-foot-5 junior responded down the stretch of the third, scoring six of his 12 points. A Nossaman triple to beat the buzzer helped Liberty pull within one, 56-55, after three. The senior finished with five 3-pointers and 17 points to earn player of the game honors.
The Knights managed only two buckets, a Grant Hay 3-pointer and a Snyder score inside, to open the fourth quarter, but four empty possessions midway through the frame enabled the Patriots to edge ahead and pull away down the stretch.
"This was a respect in the state game for us," Lindeman said. "They're known and respected throughout the state. It was a big game for us. We had it circled on the schedule as a measuring stick. And for three-and-a half quarters, we measured up."
Down the stretch, Liberty took the air out of the ball and got a few back-door layups by DeLeon to pull out the win.
"We beat a good team. They're a good team,"coach Nossaman said. "Jim does a great job with these guys. They've got some nice players. We were very fortunate to get the lead and the ball. When we get the lead and the ball, we're a lot better off. It helps having the point guard living under my roof."
Lindeman, whose team dropped to 5-1 on the season with the loss, said he hopes his players remember how this feels.
"They're angry. That was a great basketball game with two good teams," he said. "For three-and-a-half quarters, we did everything we needed to do to win the game. The last three, four minutes, we didn't execute very well. They're a good basketball team, no doubt about it. But we didn't do down the stretch what we had done the first three-and-a-half quarters. That's something we can learn from. I told them to remember this feeling now, so it doesn't happen two months from now when it matters most.
"At this point, we've seen everything in the book teams are going to throw at us," Lindeman added. "We practiced it, even executed it in games in other situations. Tonight, we didn't. There are things we could've controlled and the guys know it. That's why it hurts more."
Arnold's 23 points paced a quartet of Knights in double figures. Snyder finished with 11. Neer and Brock Macaulay added 10 apiece.
The Patriots, 5-1, also had four in double figures. Alex Radkiewicz led the way with 19 points. Nossaman added 18. Matt Muntean scored 15 and DeLeon added 12.