The fantastic five
Lady Flames seniors are recognized as they defeat Charleston Southern 88-62
Parents and family gathered with senior players and managers to celebrate their last home game before the Liberty Lady Flames (24-6, 16-2 Big South) trounced the Charleston Southern Lady Buccaneers (8-19, 3-15 Big South), 88-62.
Something that has never happened in the careers of these five Lady Flames finally took place with 5:45 left in the game. The crowd cheered as forwards Tolu Omotola, Terika Lunsford and Brittany Campbell, as well as guards LaKendra Washington and Devon Brown, entered the court together for the first and last time.
“It was really exciting,” Campbell said. “I think it was a little hectic because all five of us never have played at the same time before.”
These five Lady Flames finished the game with 54 points and 26 rebounds before they exited the game with 3:20 left in the second half.
With the victory, Liberty earned their 300th Big South victory, as well as tied for the most conference wins in a season with 16 — a mark the Lady Flames set last year.
“I am very pleased for the opportunity of tying our own record,” Head Coach Carey Green said. “It is just an indication of a lot of hard work. I’m just thankful to be able to work with such a great group under the leadership of five great seniors.”
As soon as the game began, Liberty was aggressive and attacked the Charleston Southern defense. Within four seconds, Campbell put the first points on the board. Only trailing once the entire game, the Lady Flames were able to put together a 20-7 run, jumping to a 30-17 lead with 7:24 remaining.
Points in the paint and rebounding helped the Lady Flames as they headed into halftime with a 43-29 lead. As a team, they collected 33 rebounds and had 26 points.
“I tried to bottle up my emotions and leave it all out there on the floor,” Omotola said. “I didn’t want to have any regrets and (did) not hold anything back. I was really excited to play in my last opportunity to play on this floor.”
Omotola ended the half with 14 points and six rebounds. Brown tallied seven points, seven rebounds and two steals, and center Jasmine Gardner added nine points and 10 rebounds.
As the second half began, the Lady Flames continued to control the paint and forced 13 Lady Buccaneers turnovers.
Thirteen of the total 18 Charleston Southern turnovers were steals. Washington led Liberty with three steals and finished the game with three points, four rebounds and an assist.
“I was ready,” Washington said. “I was so pumped for this game. Coming out, playing with the group of girls we have, we all had energy, we were ready to play.”
With 2:35 remaining in the game, Liberty had its largest lead of the evening with 31 points.
In all, Omotola finished the game with 21 points and eight rebounds. Both Brown and Gardner had double-doubles. Brown ended with 19 points, 11 rebounds and two steals, while Gardner had 11 points and 15 rebounds.
The Lady Flames out-rebounded Charleston Southern 54-25 and had 22 second chance points. Also, 27 of their 88 points came from off the bench.
“That’s who we have been,” Green said. “Our identity is to be very aggressive. We are blessed to have four big post players, and they have been doing a pretty good job of (rebounding) all year long.”
As the regular season come to a close, Liberty sits atop the Big South and has won 11 straight games heading into the postseason play. Most importantly, the Lady Flames are poised to win their fifth Big South Championship in six years.
“As we go into conference tournament play, we want to be executing and not be on an emotional high,” Green said. “Right now, we want to take the fundamentals of the game and stay focused. It’s like the old saying, ‘You take your eye off the ball, you get a strike.’ We don’t want to take our eyes off the small things.”
The Lady Flames have a bye in the opening round of the Big South Tournament and will face the winner of the No. 8 Coastal Carolina vs. No. 9 Gardner-Webb in the quarterfinal Friday, March 8 at 8 p.m. in Conway, S.C.