Liberty seniors (L-R) Catherine Kearney, Ashley Rininger and Sadalia Ellis each earned all-conference honors on Tuesday.
Liberty redshirt senior post player Ashley Rininger became the conference's first-ever three-time Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year for women's basketball, to go along with honorable mention All-Big South and Big South All-Academic team honors. Fellow seniors Catherine Kearney (second team All-Big South) and Sadalia Ellis (honorable mention All-Big South) also earned conference accolades on Tuesday, as voted upon by the league's head coaches.
Big South regular-season champion UNC Asheville earned both the Big South Player of the Year (Chatori Major) and Coach of the Year (Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick) honors. Presbyterian's Taylor Petty was voted Freshman of the Year, while Winthrop's Aliyah Kilpatrick was honored as Defensive Player of the Year.
Rininger collected her second significant academic honor in less than a week, as she was previously voted to the 2015-16 CoSIDA Academic All-America® NCAA Division I women's basketball first team for the second consecutive season.
After just three years on campus, Rininger graduated with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice in May 2014, maintaining a 4.0 GPA. The Canton, Ohio native then completed a master's degree in human services counseling with a focus in crisis response and trauma in May 2015 with a 4.0 GPA.
Rininger, who aspires to be an FBI agent, is currently working toward a second master's degree, in criminal justice. Again, her GPA stands at 4.0.
On the court, Rininger is the Lady Flames' leading scorer this season (11.1 ppg) and ranks third on the team in rebounding (6.6 rpg) despite missing nine games due to injury. Rininger was named Big South Player of the Week on Nov. 17 and made the all-tournament team at the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout (Nov. 27-28).
Kearney earns her first career all-conference honor by ranking seventh in the Big South in both blocked shots (1.3 bpg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg). The Monroeville, N.J., native, who is averaging a team-high 10.9 ppg in conference play, was named Big South Player of the Week on Jan. 25.
Kearney stepped up during the nine games when Rininger was sidelined, averaging 15.9 ppg and 8.7 rpg while helping Liberty go 8-1. She has notched four of her seven career double-doubles this season and recorded a team-high four 20-point games.
Ellis ranks fourth in the Big South in assists (3.2 apg) and 10th in steals (1.6 spg), garnering her first All-Big South honor. The native of Houston, Texas has scored in double figures a team-high 14 times this season and ranks second on the team with 9.7 ppg.
Ellis' career-high 25 points during a Nov. 16 victory over Elon were the most by a Lady Flame this season. She is shooting a team-best 80.8 percent from the foul line this season and dished out her 400th career assist at Winthrop on March 1.
Liberty (18-11, 15-5 Big South) is the No. 2 seed for this week's Big South Women's Basketball Championship. The Lady Flames will meet either No. 7 seed Charleston Southern or No. 10 seed Longwood in the quarterfinal round, Friday at 6 p.m. at Kimmel Arena in Asheville, N.C.
2015-16 Big South Conference Women's Basketball Award Winners First Team All-Conference Chatori Major, G, Jr., UNC Asheville Candace Brown, G/F, Sr., Gardner-Webb Janayla White, F, So., Radford Olivia Parker, F, Sr., Gardner-Webb Aisha Foy, G, Sr., Radford
Second Team All-Conference Kaylah Keys, G, Jr., High Point Catherine Kearney, F/C, R-Sr., Liberty Aliyah Kilpatrick, G, Jr., Winthrop Tianna Knuckles, G, Jr., UNC Asheville Ced Gibson, G, R-Jr., Coastal Carolina
Honorable Mention All-Conference Ashley Rininger, F/C, R-Sr., Liberty Alyssa Mann, G, R-Jr., Charleston Southern Cortney Storey, G, So., Presbyterian Sadalia Ellis, G, Sr., Liberty Aianna Kelly, G, Jr., Presbyterian
All-Freshman Team Taylor Petty, G, Presbyterian Emma Bockrath, G, High Point Arianne Whitaker, C, Winthrop Haleigh Hatfield, F, High Point Lydia Rivers, F, Radford
All-Academic Team Sarah Smith, F, So., Campbell Alyssa Mann, G, Sr., Charleston Southern Olivia Carlton, G, Jr., Coastal Carolina Alicia Quinn, F/C, R-Jr., Gardner-Webb Kat Harris, G, So., High Point Ashley Rininger, F/C, R-Sr., Liberty Micaela Ellis, G, So., Longwood Janie Miles, G, So., Presbyterian Rachael Ross, C, R-Jr., Radford Paige Love, G, Sr., UNC Asheville Naima Jackson, G, So., Winthrop
Player of the Year Chatori Major, G, Jr., UNC Asheville
Freshman of the Year Taylor Petty, G, Presbyterian
Defensive Player of the Year Aliyah Kilpatrick, G, Jr., Winthrop
Coach of the Year Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick, UNC Asheville
Scholar-Athlete of the Year Ashley Rininger, F/C, R-Sr., Liberty
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