Mar 28, 2006

Demons dance on Lady Flames

by Matthew Hegarty
It was a revenge game — pure and simple.

The devilish Demons of DePaul University overcame the Liberty University women’s basketball team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 18 with a decisive 68-43 victory, repaying their loss to the Lady Flames a year ago in the second round.

Liberty, however, has nothing to be ashamed of after a season in which it still managed to make history despite losing its leading scorer — at the time — to a knee injury.

There is something to be said for 10 straight conference titles.

In earning their 10th consecutive Big South Conference crown – and thus their 10th consecutive NCAA tournament berth – the Lady Flames put together an impressive regular season. Their 22-5 overall record during regular-season play was coupled with a perfect home stand (12-0) and a dominating 13-1 Big South Conference mark. The non-conference games included impressive wins over Southern Mississippi and SMU.

To take home that Big South Championship trophy and earn the right to an NCAA berth, Liberty first had to win out in the Advance Auto Parts Big South Women’s Basketball Championship tournament – which just happened to be held in the Lady Flames’ backyard — the Vines Center. Their first victory was a 62-46 plucking of the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina. Michelle Parker was the leading scorer, as she garnered 13 points, three steals and a defensive rebound.

Parker later commented on her performance and how she provided a spark for the rest of her teammates with her explosive play, including a steal that culminated in a coast-to-coast lay-up.

“That’s one of the things that really gets us going,” she said.

Coach Carey Green still found plenty of room for improvement. “They didn’t play as sharp as I wanted them to,” Green said. “I had a concern that we’d play like this and get ourselves in trouble.” One glance at the stats, though, and Green’s high standards for his players seem to have paid off – LU had 35 bench points.

The following game showcased Liberty and Winthrop, as the Lady Flames’ defense staved off a late Winthrop rally in a 53-45 Liberty win.

This time, Rachel Hammond led the Lady Flames in points scored with 14, including 3-of-5 from three-point range. Allison Fasnacht also contributed greatly to the effort, as her offensive poise and leadership, along with her 10 points, kept the Lady Flames on task.

The final game of the tournament saw Fasnacht lift Liberty to a close 53-50 victory over High Point via a jumper with 14.9 seconds left. Both teams battled throughout the contest, with numerous ties and lead changes. In the end, however, it was the Flames’ tenacity and spirit that saw them through the contest – and the tourney.

Even though their NCAA postseason hopes were dashed in the first round, the 2005-2006 Lady Flames proved their mettle in getting the job done – and with no senior leadership to boot.

As Green told the Lynchburg News and Advance, “This team, they’ve got their own identity. I’m very proud of this group.”

With no graduating players, that identity can only improve in the seasons to come.

Contact Matthew Hegarty at mjhegarty@liberty.edu

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