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Lady Flames Reach Big South Title Game

March 15, 2008
|  Asheville, N.C.
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Rachel McLeod dished out a career-high eight assists, helping to fuel Liberty's offensive attack against High Point.

Rachel McLeod dished out a career-high eight assists, helping to fuel Liberty's offensive attack against High Point.

A team effort lifted the No. 1-seed Liberty women's basketball team into its 11th Advance Auto Parts Big South Women's Basketball Championship title game appearance in the last 12 seasons, Saturday evening at the Justice Center. Four Lady Flames reached double figures in scoring, helping them rout No. 4-seed High Point, 80-43, in the first of two semifinal tilts.
A prolonged 21-4 opening-half surge broke the game open, and Liberty posted its third win over the Panthers this season. The victory, Liberty's third in a row, pushes the team's overall record to 27-3.

The Lady Flames will meet either No. 2-seed Radford or No. 3-seed Winthrop in the championship contest, Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Justice Center. The contest will be televised by SportSouth and WDRL in the greater Lynchburg area.

High Point, which saw its three-game win streak halted, closes out its season at 15-15. Jurica Hargraves, a Big South All-Freshman team performer, hit six three-pointers and scored nearly half (20) of her team's points. However, Liberty limited the Panthers to 24.6-percent (16-of-65) field goal shooting for the contest.

The lead changed hands three times during the first four minutes of play, before Liberty's point guard duo of Allyson Fasnacht and Rachel McLeod sparked a 10-1 run. The senior and freshman floor generals combined for nine points during the surge, which ended with Liberty holding an 18-10 edge at 10:08.

After Jurica Hargraves briefly halted the Lady Flames' momentum with her second triple of the early-going, Liberty ran off 11-consecutive points. Rachel Hammond's 17-foot jumper from the top of the key lifted the Lady Flames' advantage to 29-13, 7:00 before the half.

Liberty then suffered a 3:43 scoring drought, enabling High Point to cut its deficit to 29-18, on another Hargraves three-pointer.

The Lady Flames' lead reached 18 points, before they took a 37-21 advantage into the locker room at the intermission.

Big South Player of the Year Megan Frazee was limited to four minutes of playing time during the first half by foul trouble. Liberty's offense kept clicking in her absence, as the Lady Flames shot 58.3 percent (14-of-24) from the field during the opening stanza.

Egle Smigelskaite, making her first career start, posted eight points and six boards before the break. Fellow post player Molly Frazee added seven points and a matching number of rebounds.
Hargraves was High Point's chief offensive threat, scoring a dozen first-half points on four three-pointers.

The Panthers trimmed their deficit to 14 twice during the final 20 minutes. Ashlee Samuels converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 12:21 left, making the score 50-36, Liberty.

High Point then notched only two points in the next 8:40 of action. During the span, the Lady Flames put the game away with a 23-2 run. The surge provided Liberty a 73-38 lead with just 3:42 remaining.

From there, the Lady Flames went on to a 37-point victory, falling just two points shy of the largest margin of victory ever in the Big South Women's Basketball Championship semifinal round.

Liberty ended the game shooting 59.6 percent (28-of-47) from the field. Much of their work was done around the basket, as evidenced by a few statistics. The Lady Flames won the rebounding battle by a 50-31 margin, scored 32 points in the paint to High Point's 14 and attempted 25 more free throws than the Panthers.

Megan Frazee starred during the second half and finished with a team-high 17 points and seven caroms. Sister Molly Frazee added 12 points and eight boards.

Smigelskaite notched her first career double-double, posting career-high figures in both points (11) and rebounds (10). Hammond added 11 points of her own.

In total, seven Lady Flames scored eight or more markers, including a pair of freshmen. McLeod finished with eight points and eight assists, the most helpers by a Lady Flame this season. Kittery Maine sank all four of her field goals, equaling her career high of eight tallies.

Courtney Watkins notched six boards and three assists while playing in her 125th-consecutive game. She tied 2007 Liberty graduate Michelle Parker's Liberty and Big South record for career games played in the process.

Outside of Hargraves, no Panthers player scored more than five points. Big South Freshman of the Year Mackenzie Maier misfired on all 10 of her field goal attempts, ending up with three points.