TONTOGANY — Top-seeded Liberty Center remained scoreless for the first three minutes of Saturday’s Division III sectional final against Eastwood.

The Tigers, who had not played a game in 10 days, weren’t playing with their typical bounce and Eastwood took an early lead despite a bevy of missed layups.

But LC settled down, ramped up its defensive intensity and scored a 39-22 win for the sectional championship at Otsego High School, avenging its 19-point sectional final loss to the Eagles a season ago and earning its first sectional title since winning the district championship in 2007 — the team’s last season in Division IV.

“I anticipated that a little bit — it’s been 10 days since we played,” said LC coach Tim Davis. “So that factor, and then a tournament game, you always have those jitters, but I know our girls were ready to play and were ready to get after it. At the end of the day, we hung in on defense and held them to 22 points.”

Liberty Center, which improved to 20-3 overall, will play fifth-seeded Delta (11-12) in a district semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lake High School. Eastwood, seeded ninth, finishes its season at 12-12.

The Eagles’ Kayla Buehler, a first-team all-Northern Buckeye Conference pick who was averaging around 14 points per game for the season, scored the game’s first points with an and-one layup for a 3-0 lead two minutes in.

Eastwood followed by forcing its third turnover to open the game, but Eme Gray helped settle LC into the tournament with a nothing-but-net 3-pointer from the wing to tie the game. Alyssa Giesige and Paige Hoodlebrink traded putbacks before Gray buried another triple from the wing for an 8-5 lead.

“She’s been shooting the ball really well for us and those were huge for us to get us going on the right track,” said Davis of Gray, the team’s leading scorer at 11.8 ppg.

The two teams traded turnovers before Eliza Jones knocked down a 3 of her own en route to a 12-7 advantage through one period.

“I thought, defensively, we did pretty much everything we could,” said Eastwood coach Brittany Butler. “They hit some threes outside, but they really score a lot of points on the inside, so we had to limit them somewhere.”

Gray scored a game-high 11 points and Bea Barrett, who scored six in the second half, added eight points. Buehler finished with one made field goal and six points and Grace Kingery also scored six.

LC’s defense appeared to hit another level to open the second quarter, as it swarmed Eastwood’s half-court set before forcing a throw-away turnover. The Lady Tigers forced the Eagles into six more turnovers in the frame, allowing three points in the quarter to hold a 23-10 halftime lead.

“When you make shots, that kind of gets you going a little bit. And when you can make shots and get in your full-court press, you’re a little more active, getting after people, and it looks like you’re going a little bit harder when you’re pressing,” said Davis.

Eastwood responded out of the break by limiting LC to seven third-quarter points in an 8-7 period, which included a 7-0 stretch with an and-one layup from Kingery and a long jumper from Saylor King to finish the run and come within 26-17 with 1:52 remaining in the third quarter.

“Offensively we didn’t necessarily find our rhythm, but I thought that we played with confidence and I thought that we never gave up,” said Butler.

“It would be very easy, especially when the No. 1-seeded team gets ahead of you, to not be able to face adversity and I thought we did.

“Our kids just fought defensively. We get after it and I think we were so hyped up for this game and ready to go, which I think speaks volumes about our kids that they just wanted to go out and fight. We felt like the aggressor and had we made those several layups early on, that changes the confidence a little bit and it changes the game.”

LC closed the game with a 9-4 fourth quarter, limiting Eastwood to one point over the final 5:50 of the game.

“It’s been a lot of years since we’ve won a sectional title and moved onto the district. Not playing for 10 days and now getting this game under our belt, it’s important to get this one underneath us and move on,” said Davis. “Doesn’t matter how pretty it was, we play again next week.”