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Liberty Comes Back to Edge Winthrop, 55-51
Trailing by six points with less than five minutes remaining during Saturday's Big South Conference contest at Winthrop, Liberty responded with a game-ending 14-4 run to pull out a hard-fought 55-51 victory. Avery Warley's putback with 30.0 seconds left gave the Lady Flames the lead for good in their fourth straight win.
Liberty is now 7-7 overall and 2-0 in conference play, after avenging its only conference setback of the 2007-08 season. Megan Frazee scored seven of her game-high 20 points during the Lady Flames' game-ending surge, including a pair of free throws with 1.1 seconds left that sealed the victory.
Winthrop falls to 6-7 overall and 1-1 in the Big South, despite becoming only the third team all season to outrebound the Lady Flames in a contest. The Eagles won the battle of the boards, 34-29, paced by Ashley Fann's eight caroms.
Winthrop owned a 47-41 advantage at the 4:53 mark of the second half, before Liberty began chipping away at its deficit.
Megan Frazee swished a three-pointer from the right wing off an out-of-bounds play and Amber Mays followed with a mid-range jumper on Liberty's next possession, enabling the Lady Flames to level the score at 49-all with 2:11 remaining.
The score was still deadlocked in the final minute, when Warley tracked down her own missed shot and banked it home. Liberty's 51-49 advantage with 30 seconds remaining was its first lead since 34-32.
On Winthrop's next possession, an aggressive double team by Amber Mays and Rachel Hammond forced a turnover by Yvonne van Daalen. Liberty was then able to finish off its road win with four straight made free throws by Rachel McLeod and Megan Frazee, sandwiching a van Daalen layup.
The lead changed hands five times during a low-scoring, but back-and-forth early portion of the game. Winthrop fashioned the game's first extended run, as Jessica Fansler's three-pointer capped a 9-2 surge, boosting the Eagles' lead to 12-8 at the 11:09 mark.
Another Fansler triple, at 4:31, gave Winthrop its largest advantage of the opening half, 23-16. The Lady Flames then put together their most consistent stretch of good basketball during the stanza.
Liberty erased its deficit with a 13-1 run, including nine points by Megan Frazee. Her old-fashioned three-point play with only 7.7 seconds remaining in the half finished off the surge with the Lady Flames owning a 29-24 advantage.
Jennifer Walker canned a layup as the first-half buzzer sounded, pulling the homestanding Eagles to within three, 29-26, at the intermission.
Led by Mays' perfect four-for-four shooting, the Lady Flames connected on 45.8 percent (11-of-24) of their first-half field goal attempts. Meanwhile, Winthrop checked in at 40.0 percent field goal shooting, nailing 10 of their 25 attempts.
Frazee was the lone player to reach double figures in the opening half, going over the 1,500-point mark for her career with 11 markers. Mays chipped in with eight points and a pair of steals for coach Carey Green's Lady Flames.
Two players—Fansler and Walker—evenly divided a dozen points to pace the home team. Fann helped Winthrop claim a 17-13 rebounding edge during the first 20 minutes, as the preseason all-conference honoree pulled down six boards.
The Lady Flames maintained their narrow advantage until 11:54 remained in the contest, when Shanice Cole made a basket off a step-through move. Her hoop provided Winthrop with a 36-34 lead.
Winthrop's edge increased to five, 41-36, when Cole canned two free throws at 10:06. Rebecca Lightfoot, making her first appearance of the season, briefly halted the Eagles' momentum with a long three-pointer.
A triple by van Daalen as the shot clock expired and a charity toss by Walker bolstered Winthrop's lead to 47-41, with 4:53 left. Van Daalen's hoop, closing out an 8-2 burst, was Winthrop's last made field goal until she drilled a layup with only two seconds remaining in the contest. The Eagles' offensive drought enabled Liberty to initiate its decisive comeback.
Defense was a key to the Lady Flames' triumph, as Liberty held Winthrop to 39.6 percent (19-of-48) field goal shooting and came up with 13 steals. Mays and Rachel Hammond led the charge, with four thefts apiece.
Megan Frazee complemented her point total with seven rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocked shots. She became the Big South's first 1,500-point scorer since former Liberty standout Katie Feenstra reached the plateau in 2004-05. Frazee also scored in double figures for the 50th consecutive game.
Mays also reached double figures with 11 points, on 5-of-6 field goal accuracy. Liberty received solid production from the post, as Moriah Frazee tallied seven points and six rebounds, while Warley came up with six points, seven boards and two rejections.
Three different players—van Daalen, Cole and Walker—each scored 11 points for Winthrop. Van Daalen added a game-high four assists for the Eagles.
Liberty will return home Tuesday for its final non-conference game of the regular season. The Lady Flames will host the defending Atlantic Sun Conference champion, East Tennessee State, with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Vines Center.
Winthrop will play the third contest of a five-game homestand Monday at 7 p.m., when conference foe Radford visits the Winthrop Coliseum.