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Gardner-Webb Holds Off Liberty in BSC Final
|Devon Brown scores two of her 13 points during Liberty's second-half comeback attempt, which ultimately fell one point short.|
No. 1 seed Liberty cut an 11-point second-half deficit to one during Sunday afternoon's Advance Auto Parts Big South Women's Basketball Championship title game against No. 3 seed Gardner-Webb. However, stellar play by the senior duo of Dominique and Monique Hudson helped the Runnin' Bulldogs win their first Big South title, 67-66.
The Hudson sisters combined for 39 points on Sunday, earning each of them a spot on the all-tournament team. They were joined by teammate Sandra Vaitkute and the Liberty duo of Jelena Antic and Avery Warley. Dominique Hudson was voted tournament MVP.
Liberty, which lost for the first time in 14 trips to the Big South Championship title game, drops to 22-10 on the season. The Lady Flames fell despite another outstanding performance by Warley, whose game-high 16 rebounds enabled her to break rebounding records for both the Big South Championship and a single season.
Gardner-Webb had lost the last two Big South Championship title contests to Liberty by a combined three points. However, the Runnin' Bulldogs came out on top Sunday by forcing 20 Liberty turnovers and shooting 57.9 percent (11-of-19) from the field during the second half. Gardner-Webb, now 23-10 on the year, will prepare for its first-ever visit to the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship.
Vaitkute's layup from the right block at the 18:01 mark opened the scoring. However, Gardner-Webb did not score its next points for more than three minutes. By then, Liberty had opened up a 6-2 lead, thanks to four early points by Antic.
Back-to-back hoops by Monique Hudson tied the score at 6-all, before a 5-0 burst by the Lady Flames. Two Warley foul shots at 12:46 made the score 11-6, Liberty.
Gardner-Webb did not retake the lead until the 4:43 mark of the opening half, during a 10-2 surge. Monique Hudson scored the final four points of the run, including a driving layup from the left side at 3:49 which put the Runnin' Bulldogs in front, 28-24.
Liberty came back to tie the score three times during the remainder of the opening half. However, Vaitkute scored off of an inbounds lob pass as the halftime buzzer sounded, sending Gardner-Webb into the locker room with a 35-33 advantage.
Liberty shot 45.8 percent (11-of-24) from the field in the first half, while Gardner-Webb checked in at 41.2 percent (14-of-34). The Runnin' Bulldogs tallied 22 points in the paint and scored 14 points off of Liberty's 14 first-half turnovers.
The Lady Flames won the first-half rebounding battle by a 22-17 count, led by Warley's eight boards.
Warley also tied Antic for team-high scoring honors in the period. Both players finished the first 20 minutes with nine points.
For Gardner-Webb, Monique Hudson had 15 points before the break, while twin sister Dominique Hudson added seven markers.
The two teams exchanged hoops during the opening minute of the second half, before eight straight points by Monique Hudson started a 9-0 Gardner-Webb run. Dominique Hudson split a pair of free throws at 16:08, bolstering the Runnin' Bulldogs' lead to 46-35.
Gardner-Webb's advantage stood at nine points before Liberty put together a 7-0 run, highlighted by Antic's old-fashioned three-point play. Kylee Beecher's second-chance hoop with 10:27 left trimmed the Lady Flames' deficit to 53-51.
Liberty was still within two, before two free throws by Dominique Hudson and a triple by LaTroya Pope made it 60-53 with 8:15 left.
The Lady Flames came right back with five straight points of their own. Devon Brown cut the gap to 60-58 at the 6:19 mark, when she hit a fast break layup.
Liberty did not make another field goal for four and a half minutes, enabling Gardner-Webb to go up 65-59 when Dominique Hudson drained an open three-pointer from the left wing with 2:07 to play.
Senior Dymond Morgan then spearheaded Liberty's final comeback attempt. At the 1:43 mark, she swished her fourth three-pointer of the season, halving her team's deficit. After a defensive stop, Morgan's layup made it a 65-64 game with 1:00 remaining.
Pope gave the Runnin' Bulldogs a bit of breathing room on Gardner-Webb's ensuing possession, nailing a jump shot from the paint.
Trailing by three points, Liberty committed a turnover. However, Brianna Dillard missed the front end of a one-and-one for Gardner-Webb, keeping the Runnin' Bulldog edge at 67-64.
With the three-point arc well-guarded, Antic took the ball to the hoop for the Lady Flames. Her right-handed layup with 3.4 seconds left cut it to 67-66.
However, Gardner-Webb found Monique Hudson streaking toward her basket on the inbounds pass, and the senior dribbled out the clock, inciting an enthusiastic celebration.
Gardner-Webb ended the game shooting 47.2 percent (25-of-53) from the field and 50 percent (7-of-14) from three-point range. Liberty checked in at 43.6 percent (24-of-55) from the floor and just 22.2 percent (4-of-18) from beyond the arc.
Both teams struggled from the free throw line. Liberty ended up at only 53.8 percent (14-of-26), including just 41.7 percent (5-of-12) after halftime. Gardner-Webb was 55.6 percent (10-of-18) on its charity tosses.
Liberty outrebounded Gardner-Webb, 41-29, and owned a slight 32-28 edge in points in the paint.
Warley was a big reason for Liberty's edge around the hoop. She ended up with 13 points, 16 rebounds and three assists, notching her 19th double-double of the year. For the tournament, the redshirt junior averaged 17.7 ppg and 16.0 rpg. Her 48 rebounds were the most by one player in a single Big South Championship, eclipsing the existing record of 42 boards by Campbell's Denise Ford in 1988.
Warley also broke Katie Feenstra's Liberty and Big South record for most rebounds in a single season. Feenstra pulled down 353 caroms in 2003-04, but Warley now has 357 to her credit this year.
Antic paced the Lady Flames with 19 points, while Brown chipped in 13 points and six rebounds. Brown has now tallied 903 career points, enabling her to join Elena Kisseleva as the only Lady Flames ever to reach the 900-point mark as sophomores.
Omotola and Morgan each finished with seven points, while Omotola also contributed six rebounds and a career-best six steals.
Monique Hudson paced all players with 23 points, to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Dominique Hudson added 16 points and six assists for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
Liberty will now play in the Postseason WNIT for the first time in program history. The Lady Flames will find out the details of their first-round matchup late Monday night.