Top Seed Liberty Earns Berth to Big South Finals
HIGH POINT, N.C. - Liberty used a 28-10 run midway through the second half to pull away from No. 5-seeded Charleston Southern, and Avery Warley posted the second 20-point, 20-rebound effort in Big South Tournament history to lead the Lady Flames to a 72-52 victory in the semifinals of the 2012 Advance Auto Parts Women's Basketball Championship Saturday, March 10 at Millis Center on the campus of High Point University. Liberty advances to Sunday's Championship Game and will play the winner of No. 2 High Point/No. 6 Radford at 4:00pm on ESPN3 and SportSouth.
Warley finished with 20 points and 22 rebounds to set the Semifinal game record for rebounds while tying the overall Tournament game mark. Tolu Omotola added a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Devon Brown scored 14. Charleston Southern made a Semifinal-game record 12 three-pointers and was led by Shay Jones' 12 points. Erin Bratcher (11) and Rachelle Coward (10) also scored in double-figures for the Bucs.
The game was tightly contested for the first 27 minutes, as the teams changed leads 12 times and tied the game on 10 occasions. Liberty held a 31-29 halftime lead, but the Bucs opened the second half with seven-straight points from Coward to move ahead 36-33. The Lady Flames mounted a comeback and eventually led 41-39 on a Danika Dale field goal at the 14:01 mark. Liberty extended its lead to 48-41 on Warley's traditional three-point play until Jones cut the deficit to four points with a three-pointer at the 11:48 mark.
That would be as close as the Buccaneers would get as Liberty held CSU scoreless the next five minutes while executing on the offensive end. The Bucs managed just eight points the rest of the way.
Warley put Liberty on the board first at 19:25, only to see Charleston Southern's Bratcher hit a three-pointer from the corner to put CSU ahead, 3-2. After Warley tied it at 5-5 on a free throw, Brown scored a lay-up before Lakeitha Alston made it 7-7 with an open layup at 16:50. It was 9-9 when Dale drained a trey from the baseline to put LU ahead 12-9.
Charleston Southern came out of the under-16 media timeout with three-straight three-pointers to jump ahead 18-12 with 13:23 remaining in the opening half. Brown countered with her own trey and Warley cut the deficit to one point with a lay-in at 12:05 that made the score 18-17. The teams again exchanged baskets with the Bucs holding a two-point advantage at 23-21 with 10:51 left in the first period.
Liberty took back the lead at 25-23 on Omotola's putback and LaKendra Washington's layup, but Shannon Sanders hit CSU's sixth three-pointer of the half to regain the advantage at 26-25 with 8:18 on the clock. The Lady Flames went on a 6-3 run to close out the half with a 31-29 lead.
Warley led Liberty with nine points and 16 rebounds at intermission, while Brown also had nine markers. The Lady Flames blocked six shots in the first half, including three by Omotola. Charleston Southern was led by Bratcher's 11 points and was 7-of-19 from three-point range.
Liberty advances to its fifth consecutive Big South title game and 15th overall, extending its League record. It also marks the fifth-straight year the No. 1 seed will play for the Conference crown.
Liberty Head Coach Carey Green
"First off I'd like to congratulate Charleston Southern. They had a hard fought game vs. Campbell yesterday and coming in as the lower seed. It makes it a little more tough, they fought through that and made plays at the end of the game. Our rest and our turnover gave us a couple more extra hours to finish strong. They shot the ball extremely well at the beginning of the game. Our girls had to fight, and I'm thankful that they persevered and powered through. We had a few opportunities to separate with some easy shots and free throws. We were able to finish strong and I'm very proud of how we did that."
Charleston Southern Head Coach Julie Goodenough
"I think we came into this game and gave it our very best shot. We played two very intense halves of basketball yesterday and came back today and played a great first 20 minutes. I felt like we were hitting them blow for blow and kind of ran out of steam. Playing Liberty we have trouble keeping them off of the offensive boards. They kind of manhandled us the last 15 minutes of the game. I couldn't be more proud of our players, I think they did a great job of keeping our composure and trying to execute on both ends of the floor. We have nothing to hang our heads about. Liberty is a great team, great players in every position. They came in today and were ready to play as well. It was a very hard fought battle. I'm very proud of our team."