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Warley Helps Power Liberty Past High Point
|Avery Warley tallied a career-high 28 points during Saturday's win over High Point, including No. 1,000 of her career.|
Liberty redshirt junior center Avery Warley scored a career-high 28 points, including No. 1,000 of her career, during Saturday's Advance Auto Parts Big South Women's Basketball Championship tilt against No. 4 seed High Point. Her performance played a large role in the No. 1 seed Lady Flames' 76-55 victory over the host team inside the Millis Center.
Liberty, which scored 54 points in the paint to High Point's 10, improves to 22-9 overall. The Lady Flames will make their fourth straight championship game appearance and 14th in the last 15 years Sunday at 4 p.m., versus No. 3 seed Gardner-Webb, which took down No. 7 seed Winthrop 59-44 on Saturday. The championship game will be broadcasted live on MASN, Fox College Sports Atlantic, WCWG in Greensboro and WRTN 13.2 in Lynchburg.
High Point had averaged 91.5 ppg in its last two games, but shot just 35.1 percent (20-of-57) on Saturday. As a result, the Panthers' season ends at 16-15.
High Point jumped out to a 7-4 lead, after making three of its first four field goals. Liberty then responded with a 14-2 run, featuring eight points by Warley. Tolu Omotola's bank shot from the right block at 12:49 capped off the surge with Liberty on top, 18-9.
The Lady Flames took their first double-digit lead with 9:11 left in the opening half, when Jelena Antic scored off an inbounds pass to make it 22-11.
Mackenzie Maier's three-pointer on High Point's next possession got the Panthers rolling. High Point scored seven straight points, including a Shamia Brown basket at the 7:47 mark which cut her team's deficit to 22-18.
Liberty had pushed its advantage back to seven points, before another spurt by the black-clad Panthers. Erin Reynolds and Maier each hit triples for a 6-0 High Point run, which trimmed the deficit to 25-24, 4:17 before halftime.
High Point did not make another field goal for the remainder of the opening period, as the Lady Flames posted an 11-2 half-closing run. Devon Brown's first seven points of the tournament came during the surge, including a putback with 14 seconds to play which closed out the first-half scoring with Liberty on top, 36-26.
Liberty shot 48.5 percent (16-of-33) during the first half, aided by 24 points in the paint. Meanwhile, the Lady Flames limited the hot-shooting Panthers to 34.5 percent (10-of-29) field goal shooting during the stanza. After making 29 three-pointers in their previous two games, High Point managed only three triples in the first half.
The Lady Flames outrebounded High Point, 22-16, before the break and converted eight Panther turnovers into 13 points.
Warley led all players in both points (14) and rebounds (6) during the opening half, while blocking two shots. Antic chipped in eight points for the Lady Flames, and Brown added seven points, four rebounds and three assists.
Maier's eight points topped High Point's scoring chart during the opening 20 minutes. Shamia Brown contributed seven points and four boards.
Liberty scored two hoops within the first 47 seconds of the second half, including a Warley layup at 19:13 which pushed the Lady Flames' cushion to 40-26.
High Point answered quickly, posting a 10-2 run which featured two triples by Maier. A Brown basket with 17:27 showing on the second-half clock cut the gap to six, 42-36.
The Panthers were still within eight, at 46-38, with 15:46 left. Then, Liberty fashioned a 13-3 surge which included eight Warley points. The redshirt junior's pair of free throws at 11:18 made the score 59-41.
High Point bounced back with a 5-0 surge, punctuated by Jurica Hargraves' three-pointer with 10:08 to play. The senior's long-distance connection closed the gap to 59-46.
However, Liberty then put the contest away with a 12-0 run over the next 3:39. Back-to-back baskets by Omotola finished off the surge with the Lady Flames owning a 71-46 advantage.
The only question the rest of the way was whether or not Warley could reach the 1,000-point mark. She answered affirmatively when she canned a pair of free throws at the 3:29 mark.
Liberty closed out a 76-55 victory, with senior Rachel McLeod providing the final point from the charity stripe. McLeod and Kittery Maine have now gone 101-28 during their four years with the Lady Flames, making the duo the winningest senior class in program history.
It was also Liberty's largest margin of victory in a Big South Championship matchup since an 80-43 decision against High Point in the 2008 semifinals.
Liberty shot 49.2 percent (32-of-65) from the field on the afternoon and enjoyed its second straight strong performance at the foul line. The Lady Flames hit 73.3 percent (11-of-15) of their free throws on the afternoon.
The Panthers ended the game at just 27.3 percent (6-of-22) from three-point range, after making 29 of 46 triple attempts in the previous two outings.
Liberty outrebounded its 25th straight opponent, 47-29, and tallied 23 second-chance points. The Lady Flames' second-chance point total and points in the paint output were their largest of the season against a Division I opponent.
Warley, who is the 13th Lady Flame ever to score 1,000 career points, eclipsed her previous career high of 26 points, also recorded inside the Millis Center on Jan. 30, 2010. She connected on 12 of her 14 field goal attempts and all four of her free throws.
Warley also completed her 18th double-double of the year with a game-high 13 rebounds and equaled her career high with four blocked shots. She now has 879 career boards, which ranks No. 4 in program history and No. 8 in Big South annals.
Warley did not win the game single-handedly, however. Three of her teammates also scored in double digits. Antic finished with 16 points, seven boards and three assists. Brown chipped in 13 points, five caroms and four assists. Omotola added 10 points, six rebounds and three rejections.
Shamia Brown's 19 points topped the Panthers' scoring attack, while Maier contributed 16 points and nailed four trifectas. Freshman Cheyenne Parker grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds for High Point.