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Liberty Edges High Point in BSC Quarterfinals
Fresh off a first round win over Coastal Carolina in the 2013 VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Championship, the No. 5 North seed Liberty men's basketball team squared off with No. 1 North seed High Point, Thursday night, inside the HTC Center.
Looking for its first win against the Panthers this year after being swept in the regular season, the Flames led by 17 at halftime before the Panthers answered in the second half. With Liberty up by one with 4.5 seconds remaining, High Point, who trailed the entire game, had the final possession. However, the Panthers could not get the potential game-winning shot off before the buzzer sounded, leading to a 61-60 Flames victory.
Liberty's (13-20) win marks its 12th trip to the tournament's semifinals and its first since 2009. The Flames are now 12-9 all-time in the quarterfinals and 2-1 against the Panthers (17-13) in postseason play.
Tavares Speaks led the Flames with 17 points, followed by Davon Marshall (16) and John Caleb Sanders (12).
Allan Chaney paced the Panthers with 17 points, while Dejuan McGaughy chipped in 13 markers.
Liberty shot 44.4 percent (20-of-45) from the field, while holding High Point to 33.3 percent (19-of-57). Head coach Dale Layer's squad also won the rebounding battle, 37-30.
The Flames jumped out to a 9-0 run in the contest, forcing High Point to miss its first seven shots from the field. Sanders began the burst with a layup, followed by a pair of Speaks jumpers. Marshall capped the early run with a three-pointer for his 90th long-range basket of the season.
Chaney put the Panthers on the board at 15:06, connecting on an authoritative one-handed jam to break up the scoring drought. Weary followed with a traditional three-point play 27 ticks later, to pull High Point within four. Speaks prevented High Point from chipping further away at the Liberty advantage, connecting on two free throws at 14:06, making it 11-5 in favor of the Flames.
With just over nine minutes left in the period, Liberty began to distance itself from the Panthers again, thanks to another Marshall three-pointer. Joel Vander Pol tacked on a layup at 8:28 to help the Flames regain a nine-point (20-11) advantage.
Holding an eight-point lead around the four-minute mark, the Flames closed the half the same way it began, posting a 9-0 run during the span. After baskets by Sanders and Speaks, Marshall nailed his third three-pointer of the half. Tomasz Gielo closed out the period with a jumper with six seconds on the clock, giving Liberty a 39-22 lead at halftime.
The Flames held High Point to a season-low 22.2 percent (6-of-27) from the field, while shooting 56.0 percent (14-of-25) in the opening stanza. Liberty outscored the Panthers, 14-6, in the paint, while outrebounding the No. 1 North seed, 19-14. Speaks paced the Flames in the first 20 minutes with 14 tallies.
Marshall lit up the scoreboard first for the Flames in the second half with a jumper, pushing the Liberty lead to a game-high 19 points (41-22). Following a three-pointer by High Point's McGaughy and two free throws by Andrew Smith, the Panthers answered with an 8-0 burst cemented by a Corey Law fast break dunk.
Smith halted the run with a jump shot at 13:27, putting the Flames up by 12. High Point closed the gap to eight, courtesy of two Chaney free throws and a fast break dunk by Jarius Simms. Following two points at the charity stripe for Sanders, McGaughy made it a seven-point game, 47-40, with a three-pointer at 10:43.
A Sanders jumper boosted Liberty's lead back to nine with 9:40 left on the clock, but the Panthers continued to chip away at their deficit. Adam Weary made it a two-point game, 52-50, with just over four minutes on the clock, capitalizing on a traditional three-point play.
The Flames countered with seven unanswered points in the ensuing 1:08, connecting on a quartet of free throws followed by Marshall's fourth three-pointer of the game.
Down by nine with 2:56 on the clock, the Panthers clawed back, outscoring Liberty, 10-2, over the next 2:16. Liberty's lone basket during the stretch was a Gielo layup at the 1:51 mark. A Lorenzo Cugini layup with 40 ticks left put High Point within one, but the Flames' defense was able to hold off the Panthers' attack in the final seconds en route to the 61-60 decision.
Liberty returns to action on Saturday, squaring off with No. 2 South seed Gardner-Webb in the semifinals of the Big South Championship. Game time is slated for 2 p.m., with the contest airing live on ESPN3.