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Lady Flames Control Second Half En Route To Victory Over Panthers
The Lady Flames controlled almost every aspect of the second half to break open a closely contested battle en route to a 60-47 victory over visiting Birmingham-Southern, Monday evening, at the Vines Center.
With the victory, the Lady Flames up their conference record to 12-1 on the year (21-5), picking up the team's 10-straight win and ninth consecutive against a league opponent. The Lady Flames have already wrapped up their ninth-straight regular-season title by virtue of their victory over UNC Asheville on Saturday.
The loss drops Birmingham-Southern to 5-8 in conference action and into seventh place in the league stands as Winthrop's road victory over Coastal Carolina earlier in the evening allowed the Eagles to take a one-game lead over Birmingham-Southern for the number-sixth seed in the upcoming Big South Basketball Championship.
Prior to the start of the contest, the Lady Flames honored head coach Carey Green as the seventh-year head coach became the winningest coach in Big South Conference history on February 18th with his victory High Point, having accumulated 162 career victories during his six-plus years at the helm of the Lady Flames' program. Green surpassed previous record holder Luby Lichonczak as the Radford head coach finished his career with 158 victories in 11 seasons.
Birmingham-Southern controlled the pace of play early on as the Panthers connected on four out of their first seven shots from the field and took a five-point lead, 9-4, on a jumper by Britni Ballard at the 15:39 mark.
The Lady Flames came roaring back as Liberty scored nine-straight points, taking a four-point lead, 13-9, on a tip-in by Molly Frazee (Fr., G/F, Zenia, Ohio) with 12:58 left to play in the first half. The Panthers countered back with a 10-2 over the next three minutes of play as LaWanda Young found Ashley Thornton open for a jumper at the 9:59 mark, giving the visitors a four-point edge, 19-15.
But a three-pointer by Courtney Watkins (So., G/F, Bristol, Tenn.) just 12 seconds later sparked a 12-2 run for the Lady Flames, allowing Liberty to open up its largest of the opening half at six points, 27-21, as Moriah Frazee (Fr., G/F, Zenia, Ohio) knocked down one of two free throw attempts with four minutes left to play before the intermission.
However, the Panthers held Liberty to just two points over the final four minutes of the period, while a jumper by Pam Thornborrow with 60 seconds left trimmed Liberty's lead back two points, 29-27, accounting for the halftime margin.
A three-pointer by Stacey Anthony just 31 seconds into the second half gave Birmingham-Southern a brief lead, 30-29, but back-to-back jumpers by Rachel Hammond (Fr., G, Clearwater, Fla.) allowed the Lady Flames to regain the lead.
Another trey by Anthony at the 13:36 mark trimmed Liberty's lead back to one point, 36-35, but the Lady Flames held the Panthers to just one field goal over a nine-minute span, while outscoring the visitors 17-2 over the time frame to take a 16-point lead, 53-37 on a put-back by Rebecca Lightfoot (Fr., F, Duluth, Ga.) with 4:37 left to play.
Birmingham-Southern cut the margin back to 12 points, 53-41, after a three-pointer by Young and a free throw by Thornton just one minute later, but Liberty scored the game's next five points to seal the victory.
The Lady Flames posted their third most dominating rebounding performance of the season as Liberty finished with 19 more rebounds than Birmingham-Southern, 45-26, including a 28-13 edge in the second half, while Liberty held Birmingham-Southern to just 26.9 percent shooting in the decisive final period.
Moriah Frazee led the way for Liberty with 14 points and tied for team-high rebounding honors with seven boards, while Hammonds came off the bench to post her second double-figure game in three contests as she netted 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field.
The Lady Flames didn't allow a Panther to reach double figures as Anthony and Thornton led the team with nine points each, while Reba Ross followed with eight points and a team-high six rebounds.
Both teams wrap up their regular-season schedule on Saturday as the Lady Flames host arch rival Radford in a 2 p.m. contest in the Vines Center, while the Panthers host UNC Asheville at Bill Battle Coliseum in a 4 p.m. (CST) game.