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Liberty Withstands Late Rally by Winthrop to Earn its 10-straight Trip to the Big South Championship Game
#1 seed Liberty withstood a late rally by #4 seed Winthrop to defeat the Lady Eagles 53-45 in game five of the 2006 Advance Auto Parts Women's Basketball Championship Friday night at the Vines Center to earn its League-record 10th-straight appearance in the tournament title game.
The Lady Flames will play the winner of #2 High Point-#3 Coastal Carolina Saturday afternoon at 2:00pm ET on FSN South and CSN Mid-Atlantic. Liberty will look to capture its 10th-straight crown. Winthrop's season ends at 14-15.
The game was tightly contested the first six minutes, with six lead changes and two ties in that span. Winthrop took the first lead at 19:26 and was up 8-7 on a Lisa Koop lay-up at 17:18. Liberty's Karoli Piotrkiewicz gave the Lady Flames the lead for good at 14:30 with a jumper to make the score 9-8. LU moved ahead by five on Allyson Fasnacht's second-straight jumper before Tiffany Rodd nailed a three-pointer at the 11:21 mark to trim the deficit to 13-11. Winthrop's Ashley Fann tied it at 13-13 with two free throws at 10:46, but it would be the Lady Eagles' last points until late in the first half as Liberty strung together a 14-0 run in a 9:12 span to pull ahead 27-13. Franchesca Davenport got Winthrop back on the board with a made free throw at 1:34 for the halftime margin of 27-14.
Fasnacht and Rachel Hammond led a balanced Liberty scoring attack with six points each, while the Lady Flames shot 43.5 percent from the floor. The LU defense limited Winthrop to 19.2 percent from the field (5-of-26) in the opening stanza. Fann and Koop were the top scorers at the break with four points each.
Liberty (24-7) went up as much as 16 in the second-half with 11:44 play on Hammond's three-point field goal, giving the Lady Flames a 40-24 lead. But Winthrop began to shave the deficit in the final 10 minutes, as the Lady Eagles went on a 16-2 run in a 7:29 span, highlighted by Iva Milevoj's three-pointer with 4:15 left to make it a two-point game at 42-40. Liberty maintained its lead and scored its final 11 points from the free throw line for the final 53-45 margin.
Hammond ended with a team-high 14 points, while Fasnacht chipped in 10. Piotrkiewicz hauled in a team-high six rebounds for the Lady Flames, while LU finished with a 39.0 percentage from the floor. Rodd led Winthrop with 14 points, while Fann posted 10. Davenport had a game-high nine rebounds in the losing effort.
It was Liberty's closest tournament win since winning by five points over Elon in the 2001 Big South Championship game, while the 53 points scored by the Lady Flames were the lowest-ever by a semifinal winner in tournament history. The win was also Liberty's 27th-straight win in the Conference tournament.
Liberty Head Coach Carey Green:
"Several players played well at time. Rachel Hammond and Michelle Parker came off the bench and helped lead us. Congratulations to Bud Childers, his staff and his players this season. He has done a great job in rebuilding the Winthrop program. It's great to be in the championship game."
Winthrop Head Coach Bud Childers:
"If we just could have gotten some shots to fall in the first half. We started off so well but we just dug ourselves too big a hole to get out of. Iva (Milevoj) was way too conservative in the first half and I was telling her to push it because the shooters were there, but she did a much better job of it in the second half and that was a big part of why we were able to get back in the game. Our kids have displayed heart and character all season long and it didn't surprise me one but that we came back."