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Liberty Claims Laguna Madre Division Championship with 62-58 Win
A second half surge led by Antwan Burrus helped the Flames round out the Corpus Christi Challenge with another win, Saturday afternoon, inside the American Bank Center. The Flames (3-5) defeated Sam Houston State (5-3), 62-58, claiming the Laguna Madre Division Championship.
Burrus was named to the all-tournament team, posting 15 points, including 13 during the second half. John Caleb Sanders finished with 11 points, followed by Tomasz Gielo, who had nine.
Liberty outrebounded Sam Houston State, 41-32, winning the rebounding battle for the third straight game. Joel Vander Pol tied a career-high with 11 rebounds, while Coronado grabbed nine for the Flames.
James Thomas led Sam Houston State with 10 points, followed by Paul Baxter who had nine.
Liberty finished the contest shooting 40.4 percent from the field, while holding the Bearkats to 33.3 percent (18-of-54), marking the third straight game the Flames held its opponent under 35.0 percent shooting.
The Bearkats jumped out to an early 8-0 lead, keeping the Flames scoreless for the opening 5:45. Vander Pol put Liberty on the board with an old fashion three-point play. After another Sam Houston State basket, back-to-back buckets from Joe Retic cut the deficit to three. The Bearkats distanced themselves again with a Will Bond three-pointer, but a counter trey from Sanders made it 13-10, at 10:34.
Sam Houston State led by as much as 11 in the remaining minutes, but an Andrew Smith hook and a short Retic jumper helped Liberty chip away at the bulge. A wide open three-ball by Tomasz Gielo put the Flames within four, 24-20, with 3:21 left. The Bearkats prevented the Flames from posting another field goal in the remaining minutes to take a 30-21 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Retic paced the Flames at the half with six points, while Bond's pair of three-pointers also gave him six tallies for the Bearkats.
Sam Houston State shot 36.7 percent from the field compared to 32.0 percent (8-of-25) for the Flames. Free throws were the difference during the period. The Bearkats went a perfect 12-for-12 from the line, while the Flames went 3-for-7.
Liberty came out hot in first 4:38 of the second period, outscoring the Bearkats, 13-4. Following three-pointers from Marshall and Sanders, Burrus followed with a traditional three-point play to cut into the deficit. Gielo knotted the contest, 34-34, but the Bearkats quickly regained the lead with a Paul Baxter jumper. Gielo answered with a jumper and Burrus tacked on layup at 14:00 to give the Flames their first advantage of the contest, 38-36.
Dale Layer's squad continued to find shots down low. Liberty took an eight-point lead, its largest of the contest, when Gielo found Coronado underneath for a slick layup at 7:51 to go up, 50-42.
Outside shooting allowed the Bearkats to whittle Liberty's lead in the closing minutes. A Nathaniel Mason trey made it a two-point game with 2:38 left. After a Vander Pol layup and a Sam Houston State free throw, a key defensive stop and a free throw by Sanders allowed the Flames to hold on for the 62-58 final.
Liberty will receive a one week break from in-game action before returning to the Vines Center, next Saturday, to host Greensboro College. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.