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Liberty Claims BSC Lead with Win at High Point
In a battle between the Big South Conference's two co-leaders Monday evening at the Millis Center, High Point shaved Liberty's 19-point second-half lead to four in the final minute. However, the Lady Flames withstood the Panthers' comeback attempt to post a 73-65 triumph and take over the conference lead.
Liberty's hard-fought victory was the Lady Flames' ninth straight triumph since High Point posted a 73-69 overtime win at the Vines Center on Jan. 7. The Lady Flames are now 15-7 overall and 10-1 in Big South play.
The Lady Flames were spurred on to victory by a true team effort. Five Liberty players scored in double figures, led by 13 points apiece from Tolu Omotola and Devon Brown. Liberty's bench also outscored High Point's non-starters by a 26-7 count.
High Point drops to 14-8 overall and 9-2 in conference action after suffering its second home loss in three days. The Panthers suffered the setback despite a career-high 21-point outburst by Tayler Tremblay and becoming the first team in the last 49 games to outrebound Liberty.
High Point got on the board first, with a short jumper by Erin Reynolds on the Panthers' first possession. Omotola then scored seven straight points, making a fast break layup with 15:49 left in the first half to give red-clad Liberty a 7-2 edge.
The Panthers responded with a 6-0 run, retaking the lead at 8-7 when Reynolds converted a steal into a layup 12:47 before halftime.
Liberty scored the next four points, taking an 11-8 advantage when Terika Lunsford hit a layup at the 11:51 mark.
High Point was within a single tally, at 13-12, before being held scoreless for more than six minutes. During that span, Liberty ran off 12 straight points, with six different players during the scoring. LaKendra Washington's three-pointer at 5:58 gave Liberty a 25-12 edge.
The Lady Flames' lead reached 16 points (30-14) when Catherine Kearney benefitted from a shooter's roll on a foul line jumper, 3:48 before intermission. Her basket closed an overall surge of 17-2 by Liberty.
High Point then reeled off six consecutive points, pulling to within 10, 30-20, on Cheyenne Parker's left-handed layup at 2:08.
Liberty countered with a 6-0 run of its own, and Omotola's put back at the 1:00 mark gave the Lady Flames another 16-point bulge at 36-20.
Shamia Brown's steal and resulting layup made the halftime score 36-22 in favor of Liberty.
Liberty shot a sparkling 57.7 percent (15-of-26) from the field during the first 20 minutes, including a trio of three-pointers. Meanwhile, High Point checked in at just 30 percent (9-of-30) from the floor and went 0-of-8 from three-point range.
Liberty won the rebounding battle during the first half, 23-16, and scored all eight of the period's second-chance points.
Washington came off the Liberty bench to score a half-best 10 points, including a pair of triples. Her efforts helped the Lady Flames' bench outscore High Point's reserves by an 18-2 margin during the first half.
Omotola chipped in nine points, while Avery Warley contributed 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Reynolds was High Point's scoring leader during the first half with eight points. Teammate Parker tallied five rebounds and three steals.
Liberty quickly took another 16-point advantage (38-22) on its opening possession of the second half, when Brown made a layup for her first points of the game.
High Point then notched a 5-0 run, making it 38-27 when Laura Whitt split a pair of free throws at the 17:38 mark.
The Panthers were still within 11 (42-31) before a 7-1 Liberty run gave the Lady Flames a 17-point advantage. Miller capped off the surge with two free throws with 14:11 remaining, giving the Lady Flames a 49-32 edge.
Liberty's largest lead of the night, a 19-point cushion (55-36), came when Jasmine Gardner hit a short jumper with 12:16 showing on the clock.
Liberty still owned a 15-point lead at 63-48 when Miller hit a triple with 7:43 to play. However, the Lady Flames didn't score again for more than five minutes.
The visitors' scoring drought enabled High Point to score eight straight points. Tremblay's baseline jumper at 3:47 shaved the Panther deficit to 63-56.
Miller slowed down the High Point momentum by hitting a triple from the top of the key at the 2:41 mark. Her second three-pointer of the second half put the Lady Flames up by 10 once again, at 66-56.
Liberty led 68-58 with 2:17 left before one last High Point run. Tremblay's three-pointer with 33.9 seconds left punctuated a 7-1 burst, bringing the Panthers to within four points, 69-65.
However, High Point did not score the rest of the way, misfiring on its last three field goal attempts of the evening. Meanwhile, Brown and Danika Dale combined to shoot 4-of-6 from the foul line to close out Liberty's 73-65 victory.
With the win, Lady Flame seniors Dale and Warley improve to 11-2 at the Millis Center during the past four years.
Liberty finished the game at 50.9 percent (27-of-53) on field goals, improving to 6-0 this season and 84-1 under head coach Carey Green when hitting at least half of its field goals. High Point became the 44th straight team to shoot below 50 percent against Liberty, making 38.9 percent (21-of-54) from the field.
Three-pointers were a key statistic on Monday, as Liberty finished at 46.2 percent (6-of-13) while High Point was just 6.7 percent (1-of-15).
The Panthers used the free throw line extensively during their second-half comeback, making 18-of-23 attempts for 78.3 percent. For the game, High Point shot 68.8 percent (22-of-32) from the line, as compared to just 54.2 percent (13-of-24) for the Lady Flames.
High Point ended up with a slim 37-36 rebounding edge, becoming the first team to outrebound the Lady Flames since Baylor did so on Nov. 26, 2010.
Individually, Omotola grabbed five rebounds to go along with her 13 points for the Lady Flames. Brown scored all 13 of her points during the second half, after playing less than three minutes of the first half due to foul trouble.
Miller, Washington and Kearney added 10 points apiece for the Lady Flames. Miller's evening also featured six assists and just two turnovers in a team-high 36 minutes.
Kearney's 10 points gave the freshman 23 tallies in two matchups against High Point this season.
Warley was held to a season-low four points, but grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds, came up with three steals and blocked a pair of High Point shots.
Dale also had a good all-around performance, ending up with seven points, seven rebounds, three assists and a career high-equaling three blocked shots.
Four of High Point's five starters combined to score 57 of the Panthers' 65 points, as Tremblay (21), Parker (13), Shamia Brown (13) and Reynolds (10) all reached double digits.
Tremblay scored 17 of her 21 points after halftime, while Parker completed a double-double with 11 rebounds.
Liberty will now return to Lynchburg and prepare for its first home game since Jan. 23. The Lady Flames will play host to Charleston Southern Saturday at 2 p.m. The contest will serve as Liberty's Play 4Kay game, in support of breast cancer awareness.
High Point will take to the road for its next three games, beginning with a 1 p.m. Saturday tilt at Campbell.