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Lady Flames Sew Up Big South Title at UNCA
Liberty, which bounced back from a Wednesday setback at Winthrop, is now 25-3 overall and 10-1 in Big South play. The Lady Flames have now claimed 10 Big South regular-season championships in the last 11 seasons. Liberty, which outrebounded the Bulldogs by a 50-36 count, has now prevailed against UNC Asheville in its last 11 trips to the Justice Center.
The Bulldogs, who only dressed seven players, have lost eight out of their last nine games. UNC Asheville sits at 11-17 overall and 2-9 in the Big South after dropping its last home tilt of the regular season.
The Lady Flames scored the first 10 points of the afternoon, including six by Molly Frazee. Sister Megan Frazee brought the visitors' game-opening surge to a close with a perimeter jumper at 16:07.
Liberty did not score its next points for 7:50. During the drought, UNC Asheville tallied its first seven markers. Ashton Barton's triple from the wing pulled the home team to within 10-7 at the 8:43 mark.
The Lady Flames countered with five quick points, rebuilding its advantage to 15-7 on Frazee's layup, 7:43 before the break.
Coach Carey Green's unit then experienced another extended pointless span. The offensive outage, which lasted five minutes, enabled UNC Asheville to knot the score at 15-all. Stacy Shepard evened the score with two free throws, 3:22 prior to halftime, concluding her team's 8-0 surge.
Liberty closed out the opening stanza with eight-straight markers of its own. The first six points of the run were notched by Egle Smigelskaite, playing only her second game of the year. Megan Frazee then sent the Lady Flames into the locker room with a 23-15 edge by sinking a hoop at the 32-second mark.
The Lady Flames led at the break after holding an opponent below the 20-point plateau in the first half for the ninth time this season. UNC Asheville shot just 17.9 percent (5-for-28) from the field during the opening 20 minutes. Liberty only made 33.3 percent (10-for-30) of its field goals itself, but controlled play around the basket. The Lady Flames scored 14 points in the paint and owned a 30-17 rebounding edge.
A trio of Liberty players—Megan Frazee, Molly Frazee and Smigelskaite—notched six points apiece during the first half. Megan Frazee added nine rebounds and a trio of assists.
Barton led the home team with half a dozen first-half points. She hit two of her team's three triples before the intermission.
Liberty continued its run from the end of the first half by notching the second half's opening two points. Megan Frazee's putback 33 seconds into the stanza gave the Lady Flames another 10-point bulge, 25-15.
UNC Asheville trimmed the deficit to four, 27-23, after a subsequent 8-2 run. Jessica Monroe finished the burst off with a field goal at 16:07.
The visitors' edge reached double figures for the third time in the contest, with 11:36 remaining on the second-half clock. Rebecca Lightfoot's third-straight field goal made the score 37-27 in favor of the Lady Flames.
Lightfoot's six tallies kicked off a 9-0 Liberty surge. The Lady Flames took their largest lead up to that point, 40-27, when Megan Frazee connected from close range at 11:02.
The scrappy Bulldogs bounced right back. Barton scored the first seven points of a 9-0 run by the home squad. Stacy Shepard's five-foot bank shot with 8:27 left narrowed the white-clad UNC Asheville team's disadvantage to 40-36.
Shepard's points were her side's last markers for a 5:01 stretch. During the period, Liberty ran off eight-straight points, seizing control of the contest for good. An eight-foot jumper by Megan Frazee bolstered the Lady Flame edge to 48-36 with 5:00 left.
Liberty's lead remained in double figures the rest of the way. Courtney Watkins recorded the Lady Flames' final six points, including a layup with 33 seconds remaining that pushed Liberty to its heftiest advantage of the outing, 59-41.
The final score was 60-46, giving the Lady Flames their second 14-point decision over UNC Asheville this season.
The Lady Flames improved their shooting percentage slightly during the final 20 minutes, nailing 43.3 percent (13-for-30) of their field goals. They ended up at 38.3 percent (23-for-60) for the game.
Liberty barely kept its streak of consecutive games making a three-pointer alive. Watkins' first-half trifecta was the Lady Flames' lone long-distance connection in 15 tries. Liberty has now made a three-pointer in a school-record 99-consecutive contests, dating back to the 2004-05 campaign.
Meanwhile, UNC Asheville closed the game shooting 29.8 percent (17-for-57). Liberty, ranked No. 2 nationally in field goal percentage defense, has now held half of its 28 foes to 35 percent field goal shooting or worse.
For Megan Frazee, it was her third-straight double-double and her 12th of the year. She also distributed a team-best five assists in 38 minutes of action. Watkins totaled 10 points, six boards and four assists.
Molly Frazee contributed nine points, while fellow forward Lightfoot scored all eight of her markers after the intermission and pulled down six rebounds.
On UNC Asheville's Senior Day, both of the Bulldogs' two graduating seniors reached double digits. Barton finished with three triples and a team-best 15 points. Shepard accumulated 10 points and eight caroms.
Liberty will return to the Vines Center Friday at 7 p.m. for its regular-season finale. The Lady Flames will host second-place Radford (21-9, 8-3 Big South) in the final tune-up before the Big South Women's Basketball Championship. Liberty will look to complete a perfect season at the Vines Center, after winning its first 12 home contests of the year.
The game will also mark the Lady Flames' annual Senior Night recognition. Liberty's senior trio of Allyson Fasnacht, Smigelskaite and Watkins will be honored prior to tip-off. The seniors have been a part of 95 victories during their four years at Liberty.