Flames outlast Austin Peay State University, win in overtime
The Liberty Flames basketball team faced off against the Austin Peay State University Governors in the Ramada Worldwide BracketBuster series, Saturday, Feb. 23. The Flames prevailed 79-73 in overtime.
Travis Betran of Austin Peay made two late three pointers in the second half to send the game into the Flames second overtime game of the season. Liberty made all eight of their free throws in the overtime to defeat Austin Peay.
The Governors average 7.5 threes a game, and in the first half, they almost matched that average with six. Both teams ended the first half shooting 50 percent from the field, but Liberty was down by eight. Missed free throws and three pointers by Liberty attributed to this early deficit.
“(During the) first half, we exchanged baskets, and it was kind of hard to get a lead,” Tavares Speaks said.
In the second half, Head Coach Dale Layer made some necessary changes in order to help get the team back from an eight-point deficit.
“Our defense intensity and rebounding in the second half were the difference in the game,” Layer said. “They got into a rhythm in the first half, and I thought we broke their rhythm with defense toughness.”
After halftime, Liberty came out on an 8-0 run against Austin Peay. Speaks led the way with 14 points in the second half. In addition, JR Coronado grabbed 12 rebounds, which helped Liberty get 11 second-chance points.
“I think the main thing was rebounding,” John Caleb Sanders said. “JR (Coronado) grabbed 18 rebounds for us, and that is huge.”
Austin Peay shot 6-14 from three, but in the second half, they went cold from behind the arc. The Governors shot an abysmal 2-11 (27 percent) behind the three-point line. In the first half, Travis Betran went 2-5 from three, followed by 2-11 in the second half.
Sanders also contributed to the Flames comeback with 12 points, six assists and eight rebounds in the second half. He helped lead the team to victory but he could not have done it without Speaks’ contributions in the second half. Speaks shot 7-14 (50 percent) from the field, with two three pointers.
“I always want to play in the crunch,” Speaks said. “I just stepped up and did my part as well as everyone else.”
Speaks ended the night with 18 points. In all, Liberty had five players in double-figures. A crowd of more than 2,000 fueled the Flames late into the game.
“Best crowd of the season,” Sanders said. “Great atmosphere. You know it’s always good to give the crowd a win.”
The Flames will host their final home game Tuesday, Feb. 26 against Virginia Military Institute.