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Lady Flames To Meet Birmingham-Southern In First Round Of Big South Championship

March 3, 2007  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Rachel Hammond, a member of the 2006 Big South all-tournament team, and the Lady Flames will aim for their 11th-straight Big South Championship crown.

Rachel Hammond, a member of the 2006 Big South all-tournament team, and the Lady Flames will aim for their 11th-straight Big South Championship crown.

The Liberty Lady Flames (18-11, 10-4 Big South) have earned the No. 3 seed for the Advance Auto Parts Big South Women's Basketball Championship. Liberty will meet No. 6 seed Birmingham-Southern (8-21, 3-11 Big South) in the last of four opening-round games, at 8 p.m. Thursday at UNC Asheville's Justice Center. 

For the first time in 10 years, Liberty is not the tournament's top seed. That distinction was earned by High Point, on the basis of an 11-3 conference record. The Panthers won their first-ever Big South regular season championship and halted the Lady Flames' streak of regular season crowns at nine. 

Liberty tied for second place in the final conference standings with Radford, which defeated the Lady Flames in Saturday's season finale, 77-54, at the Dedmon Center. The Highlanders won the tiebreaker and claimed the No. 2 seed. 

The Lady Flames and Panthers will meet for the second time in 11 days. Liberty completed a season sweep of Birmingham-Southern with a 79-66 triumph at Bill Battle Coliseum on Monday, coming back from 14 points behind to do so. The Lady Flames were also victorious over Birmingham-Southern by a 52-44 count at home on Feb. 5. 

Birmingham-Southern, which is leaving the Big South Conference at year's end to drop down to the NCAA Division III level, has never defeated Liberty in 13 tries. Two of those losses came in the Big South Championship. Liberty beat the Panthers, 54-41, in the 2004 Big South Championship title game and handed Birmingham-Southern an 80-44 setback in the 2005 semifinals. 

The last time Liberty was not seeded No. 1 was 1997, when the Lady Flames entered the Big South Championship as the No. 2 seed. Liberty went on to knock off top-seeded UNC Greensboro in that year's championship game, beginning the Lady Flames' run of 10-consecutive Big South Championship titles. Liberty has won its last 28 Big South Championship contests and is a conference-best 30-5 all-time in the event. 

All seven games of the tournament will be played at the Justice Center, including all four quarterfinals on Thursday, two semifinals on Friday and the championship game Saturday afternoon. The semifinals will be televised on SportSouth and WDRL, and the championship game will be shown on SportSouth, Fox College Sports and CSN Mid-Atlantic. The tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. The full Big South Championship schedule follows.

First Round – Thursday, March 8 (at Justice Center, Asheville, N.C.)
Game 1: No. 1 High Point vs. No. 8 Winthrop, Noon
Game 2: No. 4 UNC Asheville vs. No. 5 Coastal Carolina, 2 p.m.
Game 3: No. 2 Radford vs. No. 7 Charleston Southern, 6 p.m.
Game 4: No. 3 Liberty vs. No. 6 Birmingham-Southern, 8 p.m.

Semifinals – Friday, March 9 (at Justice Center, Asheville, N.C.)
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 8 p.m.

Championship – Saturday, March 10 (at Justice Center, Asheville, N.C.)
Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 2 p.m.
All Times are Eastern