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Liberty Shoots Past GWU in BSC Quarterfinal
|Brittany Campbell made three of Liberty's 11 three-pointers during Liberty's 78-61 victory over Gardner-Webb on Friday.|
No. 1 seed Liberty shot a sizzling 11-of-16 from three-point range Friday evening at The HTC Center, sparking the Lady Flames to a 78-61 victory over No. 9 seed Gardner-Webb in the quarterfinal round of the VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Women's Basketball Championship.
Liberty, which equaled a season high with its 11 triples, advances to the semifinals for the 17th consecutive season with its 12th win in a row. Now 25-6 on the season, the Lady Flames will face No. 5 seed Campbell Saturday at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcasted live on ESPN3.
Gardner-Webb's season ends at 13-18, despite limiting the Lady Flames to 16 points in the paint. All three of the Runnin' Bulldogs' losses in Big South Championship history have come at the hands of Liberty.
Liberty made its first five field goal attempts of the game, including a trio of three-pointers, opening up a 13-3 lead by the 16:44 mark.
The Lady Flames' three-point barrage continued during an 11-0 run midway through the half. Three trifectas found the bottom of the net in that span, including one by Sadalia Ellis from the right wing at 8:16 which gave Liberty a 34-15 cushion.
Gardner-Webb limited Liberty to two made field goals over the remainder of the period, outscoring the Lady Flames, 13-5, over that stretch. Jessica Heilig tallied eight of the Runnin' Bulldogs' points, including a pair of free throws with 3.7 seconds left that made the halftime score 39-28 in favor of Liberty.
The Lady Flames shot 50 percent (15-of-30) from the field in the first half, including a scorching 66.7 percent (8-of-12) from three-point range. The eight made triples tied a tournament record for most in one half. Meanwhile, Gardner-Webb hit 33.3 percent (10-of-30) of its first-half field goal tries.
Devon Brown connected on three triples before the break, scoring a half-best 14 points for the Lady Flames. Jasmine Gardner collected seven rebounds, helping Liberty double up the Runnin' Bulldogs on the boards, 24-12.
Heilig's dozen points paced Gardner-Webb's first-half scoring attack.
The Runnin' Bulldogs cut into the deficit with a 7-0 run early in the second half. Olivia Parker scored the final five points of the surge, including a foul shot with 15:16 left that pulled her team within five (42-37).
Liberty responded with an 8-0 burst, capped off by back-to-back Reagan Miller triples. Her second connection pushed the Lady Flame lead back out to 50-37 with 13:48 showing on the clock.
Gardner-Webb got no closer than nine points the rest of the way, and Liberty made 18-of-23 second-half free throws (78.3 percent) to close out its 78-61 triumph.
The Lady Flames shot 45.3 percent (24-of-53) from the field on the night while holding Gardner-Webb to 30.5 percent (18-of-59).
Liberty outrebounded Gardner-Webb by a 49-32 count and came up with 13 steals.
A career-high six of those steals were courtesy of Brown, who led all players with 23 points and distributed a season-high four assists in 24 minutes.
Miller shot four-of-five from beyond the arc, scoring a season-best 17 points, while Campbell connected on three of her five triple tries during an 11-point night.
Tolu Omotola posted her eighth double-double of the year, consisting of 10 points and 11 boards. Gardner matched her 11 rebounds to tie for game-high honors.
Heilig ended up with 16 points to pace Gardner-Webb, while Catrina Green chipped in a dozen points and a team-high nine boards. Parker made it three Runnin' Bulldogs in double digits with 11 points.
Alexis Sherard served as Liberty's head coach on Friday, as Carey Green was unable to attend the contest due to the death of his father, A.J. Green, earlier this week.
Liberty Assistant Coach Alexis Sherard
"I just want to say we beat a very good team tonight. Gardner-Webb's record is not indicative of their talent. Coach Rick Reeves does a great job maximizing the talent of his girls. I'm very proud of our girls. We knew it was going to be a hard fought battle and knew it was going to be a battle of the boards. Obviously, our head coach isn't here, but I think our girls responded. I couldn't be happier or more proud to be a Flame right now."
"Our game plan is not to shoot 20+ threes. Our plan is to get it inside. We were fortunate enough to make those eight threes."
"The players play the game. Success depends on the leadership on floor. We can do all of the prep work, but the players play game. We're fortunate to have the seniors we have out there. They understand the game and are very talented."
"We knew it was going to be our starting five that were really going to set the tone. Rebounding is something we preach. Aggressive players win the game. We played for our families, we played for God, but most of all we played for Coach Green to have a game tomorrow."
"I think the success of teams depends on how deep your bench is. It really was a team win and I think everyone played a huge part."
Gardner-Webb Head Coach Rick Reeves
"I just want to publicly offer my condolences to Coach Green. We have been praying for him and his family. He made the right decision to be where he needed to be. I also want to thank Myrtle Beach and the conference for putting on a wonderful tournament. We wish we could have stayed longer to enjoy the hospitality even more, but it just wasn't meant to be."
"We were pretty positive the whole time. We tried to make some adjustments and change some defensive assignments. We've got a good basketball team and they're going to get better. In the locker room, I told them how proud we are of them. I gave them the challenge to have everyone improve one skill area for next season. I'm not displeased in any way with this team."