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Liberty Edges Radford on Senior Night

March 7, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Egle Smigelskaite played well in her final contest in the Vines Center and put Liberty ahead for good with her putback at the 4:30 mark of the second half.

Egle Smigelskaite played well in her final contest in the Vines Center and put Liberty ahead for good with her putback at the 4:30 mark of the second half.

For the second time this season, a stellar performance by Liberty junior Megan Frazee played a key role in her team's victory over in-state rival Radford. Frazee finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and five steals, helping the Lady Flames hold off the Highlanders, 70-62, in the regular-season finale Friday evening at the Vines Center.

With the triumph, Liberty wrapped up a 13-0 season at home. The Lady Flames, now 26-3 overall and 11-1 in the Big South Conference, tied the 1997-98 squad for most regular-season wins in program history.

Radford, despite the setback, finishes second in the Big South standings with an 8-4 league mark. The Highlanders will take a 21-10 record into the Advance Auto Parts Big South Women's Basketball Championship, set to begin on March 14 at the Justice Center in Asheville, N.C.

Liberty made its first four field goal attempts of the evening, sparking a game-opening 10-2 run. Megan Frazee scored six points during the spurt, including a fast break lay-up at 15:47, which gave the Lady Flames an early eight-point edge.

While Liberty quickly found its shooting touch in its first home game in 18 days, the Highlanders struggled early on, hitting only two of their first 14 field goal tries. As a result, the Lady Flames were able to build a pair of double-digit leads during the first six and a half minutes of play.

Senior Egle Smigelskaite's reverse layup 13:31 before halftime lifted her team's advantage to 16-6. Those were Liberty's last points for six and a half minutes. The visiting Highlanders managed only four tallies of their own during the time span, though. They cut their deficit to 16-10 when Kymesha Alston swished a jumper at the 8:00 mark.

Radford was still within six before Megan Frazee's old-fashioned three-point play initiated a 9-2 Lady Flames surge. Rebecca Lightfoot contributed four points to the run, including a 15-foot baseline jumper with 3:38 on the first-half clock, which made it 27-14, Liberty.

The Highlanders responded, scoring five of the stanza's final six markers. The late surge trimmed the Lady Flames' halftime lead to 28-19. However, Radford could not avoid becoming the 10th opponent Liberty has limited to fewer than 20 first-half points.

Even though they led at the break, Liberty shot only 34.5 percent (10-of-29) from the field during the first half. Four of their missed shots were rejected by Radford senior Kelli Darden, who set a school and Big South single-season record with her first blocked shot of the evening, No. 86 of the year.

Radford shot 22.6 percent (7-of-31), including just 7.1 percent (1-of-14) from beyond the three-point arc.

Liberty owned a 25-21 first-half rebounding advantage and scored 14 points in the paint to Radford's four. Much of the Lady Flames' production around the basket came courtesy of Megan Frazee. The junior, who notched 26 points and 18 rebounds in the teams' first meeting this year, nearly posted a first-half double-double. She tallied nine points, nine boards and four steals during the opening 20 minutes. Lightfoot added six points and four caroms for the homestanding Lady Flames during the first half.

Alston's six points off coach Jeri Porter's bench led Radford's attack in the first 20 minutes. Darden and Corrie Fertitta evenly split eight rebounds for the Highlanders.

Radford extended its success from the closing moments of the first half into the second stanza. The Highlanders' run reached 11-1 after Darden's jumper in the paint pulled her squad to within three points, 28-25, at 17:42.

Megan Frazee quickly answered with five points in 11 seconds. Her steal and jumper in transition boosted the advantage back to 33-25. Her three-pointer to open the quick spurt gave Liberty its 100th-consecutive game with a made triple.

The Highlanders, displaying renewed energy after the break, tossed in eight-straight points. The run, which featured a pair of three-pointers, allowed Radford to knot the score at 33. Johnette Walker capped the surge with a triple, with 15:37 showing on the second-half clock.

Liberty again came right back, continuing the see-saw nature of the second half's opening minutes. A Megan Frazee three-point play and a three-pointer by Allyson Fasnacht regained the advantage for the Lady Flames. Fasnacht's long-distance connection, which came at 14:50 made the count 39-33, Liberty.

It was then Radford's turn to fashion a run, and the Highlanders pieced together a 9-3 span. Darden's layup with 10:55 to play leveled the score for a second time in the half, 42-all.

Liberty's lead bounced back up to five on two occasions, before Radford was able to go on top for the first time in the contest. Six-consecutive markers, including a Fertitta triple at 8:53, provided the red-clad visitors a 50-49 edge.

The Lady Flames, ranked No. 2 nationally in field goal percentage defense, tightened up defensively, keeping Radford scoreless for the next 3:02. During the period, Liberty retook the lead with a 5-0 surge. The Lady Flames held a 54-50 edge when Megan Frazee canned a reverse layup at 6:32.

Radford was able to tie the score one more time, 54-54, after Vandy Pullen made both ends of a two-shot foul, with 4:54 left in the game. Liberty never trailed again, however.

The Lady Flames seized control with an ensuing 6-0 surge. Smigelskaite's putback at the 4:30 mark gave Liberty the lead for good, and Megan Frazee's second-chance hoop 1:13 later built the advantage to 60-54.

Radford shaved its deficit to four points on four occasions during the final three minutes. However, Liberty held off each comeback attempt with some clutch free throw shooting. The Lady Flames went 6-of-8 from the charity stripe during the last 37 seconds of the game, wrapping up a 70-62 triumph.

The Highlanders were able to trim only one point off their nine-point halftime disadvantage, despite shooting 55.2 percent (16-of-29) from the field during the final 20 minutes. Radford also drained all seven of its free throws after the break.

Liberty maintained its edge by connecting on half of its six three-pointers during the second half. The Lady Flames also held on to outrebound the visitors for the contest, 42-40. Liberty has won the rebounding battle in 15-consecutive games.

Frazee, who became the fifth Lady Flame ever to exceed the 1,300-career point mark during the contest, has now recorded four double-doubles in five career meetings with Radford. She scored 17 second-half points and equaled a career high in steals. The Buckeye State native also played all 40 minutes for the first time in her career.

Sister Molly Frazee joined her in double figures, posting 11 points and hauling in five rebounds.

All three Liberty seniors, playing their final game at the Vines Center, made positive contributions. Smigelskaite finished with six points, six rebounds and equaled a career high with three blocks.
Fasnacht scored all six of her points in the second half, while backcourt mate Courtney Watkins tied for the team lead with four assists.

Taleia Moton spearheaded Radford's comeback attempts, with 14 of her 16 points coming after the intermission. Darden tallied 12 points, seven rebounds and a career high-matching seven blocks. Pullen also reached double figures for Radford, totaling 10 points and five boards.

Liberty will next be in action at the Advance Auto Parts Big South Women's Basketball Championship, at the Justice Center in Asheville, N.C. As the tournament's No. 1 seed, the Lady Flames have earned a bye into the semifinal round. Liberty will meet the winner of the March 14 tilt between No. 4-seeded High Point or No. 5-seeded Coastal Carolina, at 6 p.m. on March 15.

The Highlanders, seeded No. 2, will open tournament play on March 14 at 4:30 p.m., when they square off with the host team and No. 7 seed, UNC Asheville. The contest will serve as a rematch of the title game from the 2007 Big South Women's Basketball Championship.