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Liberty Claims BSC Title No. 13 in Thriller
|Watch highlights of Liberty's 68-66 championship game victory and the postgame press conference.|
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Devon Brown's contested bank shot from the right block dropped through the hoop with 4.2 seconds remaining in Sunday afternoon's Advance Auto Parts Big South Women's Basketball Championship title contest, giving No. 2 seed Liberty a dramatic 68-66 victory over No. 1 seed Gardner-Webb at the Millis Center.
Devon Brown takes the game-winning shot.
The Bulldogs, who erased a 20-point second-half deficit with a 24-2 run, had just tied the score at 66-66 on Courtney Epps' driving layup at the 12.7-second mark.
After Brown's game-winner, Monique Hudson sprinted down the right side of the floor, but her off-balance attempt from the right baseline caromed off the front of the rim and into Avery Warley's hands as time expired.
The nail-biting victory, Liberty's 10th in a row, makes it three consecutive Big South titles for the Lady Flames and 13 championships in the last 14 years. The Lady Flames will enter their 13th NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship with a 27-5 record, after avenging two regular-season losses to the Bulldogs.
Gardner-Webb, which has equaled the Big South single-season victory record this year, falls to 28-4 on the year after seeing its program-record 16-game winning streak halted. The Bulldogs will await their postseason assignment Monday evening, after their second straight Big South runner-up finish.
Brown, who led all players with 24 points, became the first freshman to be named Big South Championship MVP since the Lady Flames' Elena Kisseleva in 1997. She was joined on the all-conference team by Amber Mays, Liberty's only senior.
Gardner-Webb was represented on the team by Dominique Hudson and Margaret Roundtree.
For the third consecutive game in the tournament, Mays opened the scoring with a layup during the opening minute of play. Her conversion sparked a 6-2 Liberty run to start the contest, capped by Rachel McLeod's mid-range jumper at the 16:11 mark.
Gardner-Webb briefly cut its gap to 8-6 on a perimeter hoop by LaTroya Pope at 13:28, before the Lady Flames opened up some breathing room with a 9-2 surge. Kylee Beecher closed the run emphatically, making the score 17-8, Liberty, on her old-fashioned three-point play, 10:36 before halftime.
The Lady Flames took their first double-digit advantage, 22-12, when Jelena Antic banked in a putback in traffic at the 8:01 mark.
Liberty continued to gradually increase its lead, pushing its edge to 33-18 on another three-point play, this one by Danika Dale at 4:05.
The Lady Flames took a pair of 16-point advantages, before Big South Player of the Year Roundtree hit a hoop from close range as the halftime buzzer sounded. Her basket cut the Bulldogs' deficit to 38-24 at the break.
Liberty shot the ball exceptionally well during the first half, hitting 60.9 percent (14-of-23) of its field goal tries. The Lady Flames also scored 22 points in the paint and 13 points off of Gardner-Webb's dozen turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs shot only 24.1 percent (7-of-29). However, Gardner-Webb made 90.9 percent (10-of-11) of its charity tosses and outrebounded the Lady Flames, 19-16. Half of the Bulldogs' 24 first-half points were of the second-chance variety.
With many of both teams' starters mired in foul trouble, the latter part of the opening stanza became a battle of the benches. Liberty's reserves outscored Gardner-Webb's bench players, 12-4.
Coming off a career-high 21-point scoring outburst in the semifinals, Mays led all players with eight points in the first half, to go along with three steals and two assists. Brown contributed seven points, a half-high seven boards and a trio of steals. Antic came off of the bench for seven markers of her own.
Roundtree's six points paced Gardner-Webb's attack, although she misfired on 10 of her 13 field goal attempts before the break. Epps added a team-high five caroms, all at the offensive end.
Liberty scored the first four points of the second half, taking a 42-24 lead on Warley's second-chance hoop at 18:34.
Margaret Roundtree's layup finished Gardner-Webb's quick 5-0 burst with 13:38 left, trimming the gap to 48-34.
The Lady Flames countered immediately, tallying the next six points in succession. Brown's back-to-back layups lifted Liberty's lead to 54-34 with 11:47 showing on the second-half clock.
The Lady Flames were still in front by 20 points at the 9:41 mark, prior to the aforementioned 24-2 run by the Bulldogs. Monique Hudson tallied seven of the run's points, but it was twin sister Dominique Hudson's acrobatic three-point play at 2:32 which gave Gardner-Webb a 62-60 lead.
Brown responded with a three-point play of her own 19 seconds later, putting Liberty back on top, 63-62. Two more charity tosses by Dominique Hudson at the 1:57 mark provided the Bulldogs with their final lead of the afternoon, 64-63.
Dymond Morgan tied the score at 64-all at the 1:26 mark by splitting a pair of free throws and Brown drove to the hoop to make a contested basket with 31.3 seconds left, setting the stage for the action-packed closing sequence.
Liberty continued its hot shooting in the second half, finishing the game at 59.6 percent (28-of-47) from the floor. Gardner-Webb shot just 38.6 percent (22-of-57) from the field, but made the game interesting in several other ways.
The Bulldogs made 85.7 percent (18-of-21) of their free throws and scored 24 points off of 26 Liberty turnovers. Gardner-Webb also kept the rebounding margin close, as the Lady Flames finished with a slim, 30-29 edge on the glass.
Brown was key for the Lady Flames down the stretch, scoring 13 of the team's final 18 points. She also pulled down eight boards, setting a new Liberty freshman rebounding record with 268 caroms this season. On the defensive end, Brown came up with four of the Lady Flames' 13 steals.
Beecher and Antic contributed nine points apiece for the Lady Flames, while Warley corralled a game-high nine rebounds. Mays contributed in a number of categories, ending up with eight points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Dominique Hudson, limited by foul trouble in the first half, scored 13 of her team-leading 17 points during the final 20 minutes for the Bulldogs. She was one of four Gardner-Webb players to score in double digits, including Monique Hudson (13 points), Roundtree (13) and Epps (11). Roundtreee's seven boards paced Gardner-Webb's strong rebounding effort.
The 2010 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship will begin Saturday and Sunday with 32 first-round games at 16 different sites. The Lady Flames will learn their tournament destination and first-round opponent Monday at 7 p.m., when the NCAA selection show airs on ESPN.
2010 Advance Auto Parts Big South Women's Basketball Championship
Devon Brown, Liberty – MVP
Amber Mays, Liberty
Dominique Hudson, Gardner-Webb
Margaret Roundtree, Gardner-Webb
Shamia Brown, High Point
Shanice Cole, Winthrop