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Lady Flames Set for Big South WBB Championship

March 9, 2016  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty will begin its quest for its 17th Big South Women's Basketball Championship title Friday at 6 p.m. in Asheville, N.C.

Liberty will begin its quest for its 17th Big South Women's Basketball Championship title Friday at 6 p.m. in Asheville, N.C.

Liberty's Complete Tournament Notes

Tournament Bracket

Tournament at a Glance
Defending champion Liberty (18-11, 15-5 Big South) will open its 25th Big South Women's Basketball Championship appearance seeded No. 2. The Lady Flames' quest for their 17th title in the last 20 years will begin with a quarterfinal matchup against either No. 7 seed Charleston Southern or No. 10 seed Longwood, Friday at 6 p.m. If Liberty wins, its semifinal contest would tip off Saturday at 4 p.m. The championship game is set for Sunday at 2 p.m., with the tournament taking place at Kimmel Arena in Asheville, N.C.

The "Starting Five" - Liberty's Top Tournament Storylines
1) The Lady Flames have made 19 straight Big South Women's Basketball Championship semifinal appearances. Liberty has advanced to the championship game 17 of those times, cutting down the nets as Big South champion on 16 occasions.

2) The Lady Flames have won two championships (1997, 2010) and lost in the 2014 semifinals during their three previous tournament appearances as the No. 2 seed.

3) Liberty is 3-2 all-time at Kimmel Arena and has captured three Big South Championship titles (1999, 2000 & 2008) in the city of Asheville, N.C.

4) If Liberty wins the tournament title this weekend, it will advance to its 17th NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship. If Asheville wins, Liberty will represent the Big South in the Postseason WNIT for the second time (also 2011).

5) Liberty's roster is anchored by an accomplished group of five seniors, including All-Big South honorees Catherine Kearney (second team), Ashley Rininger (honorable mention, Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year) and Sadalia Ellis (honorable mention).

Silver Anniversary
This weekend's tournament will mark Liberty's 25th appearance in the Big South Women's Basketball Championship all-time. The Lady Flames have won a record 16 titles in their first 24 tournament appearances, posting an all-time tournament record of 51-8.

No. 2 Seed
Liberty enters the Big South Championship as the No. 2 seed for the second time in three years and the fourth time overall. The Lady Flames captured their first-ever Big South title as the No. 2 seed in 1997 and also won from the No. 2 seed line in 2010. Liberty's most recent appearance as the No. 2 seed ended in a loss to Winthrop in the 2014 semifinals.

How's This For Openers?
Liberty is 21-3 all-time in its opening game of the Big South Championship. The Lady Flames have won 19 straight openers, since losing to UNC Greensboro, 84-40, in the first round of the 1996 tournament. As a result, Liberty has made 19 straight semifinal appearances.

Success Versus Current Big South Teams
Liberty is 45-6 in Big South Championship games against the 10 other teams playing in this year's tournament. Campbell, Gardner-Webb, Radford (three times) and Winthrop are the only four squads in the 2016 tournament who have ever defeated the Lady Flames in the Big South Championship.

Avoiding the Upset
The Lady Flames own a 48-2 record all-time in the Big South Championship, when Liberty is seeded higher than its opponent. One of Liberty's two losses to a lower-seeded squad came as the No. 2 seed in 2014, when the Lady Flames fell to No. 3 seed Winthrop in the semifinals.

Commonwealth Teams in the Championship Game
Either Liberty or Radford has appeared in 28 of the 29 Big South Championship title games in conference history, with 2014 marking the first time neither the Lady Flames nor Highlanders made it that far. However, 2008 is the only time the Lady Flames and Highlanders have ever faced each other in the championship game. Liberty and Radford enter as two of the top three seeds in this year's tournament.

Lack of Overtime
None of Liberty's 59 Big South Championship contests have gone to overtime. Most of the time, the games have been decided by a wide margin, as 40 of the Lady Flames' tournament tilts have featured a double-digit spread between the two teams.

No More Nail-biters!
The Lady Flames' final contest at the Big South Championship has been a close game each of the past 10 years. Their championship game matchups in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 and their semifinal losses to Radford in 2007 and Winthrop in 2014 have been decided by a total of 43 points.

Accomplished in Asheville
Liberty has played in four previous Big South Women's Basketball Championships in Asheville, highlighted by the Lady Flames' back-to-back titles at the Asheville Civic Center in 1999 and 2000, as well as their 2008 championship at the Justice Center. Kimmel Arena is playing host to the Big South Women's Basketball Championship for the first time. Liberty is 3-2 all-time at the facility, which opened in time for the 2011-12 season.

Tournament Tested
Liberty has won three Big South Championship titles (2012, 2013, 2015) since redshirt seniors Katelyn Adams, Catherine Kearney and Ashley Rininger joined the team in 2011-12. The Lady Flames' current players have combined for 266 points and 174 rebounds in Big South Women's Basketball Championship contests.

On This Date
Liberty is 6-0 all-time on March 11, highlighted by a pair of Big South Championship title game victories over High Point (2006, 2012).

The Lady Flames are 4-1 all-time on March 12, including a 70-62 loss to Radford in the 1993 Big South semifinals, a 70-52 win over Radford in the 2010 quarterfinals and a 76-55 victory over High Point in the 2011 semifinals.

Liberty is 3-3 all-time on March 13, including 1-1 in the Big South Championship title game. The Lady Flames posted a 54-41 victory over Birmingham-Southern in the 2004 title tilt, while losing to Gardner-Webb, 67-66, in the 2011 final.

Hauling in the Hardware
Liberty players have earned a number of awards during the first two weeks of March, including the following:

• Ashley Rininger became the first Lady Flame ever to earn back-to-back CoSIDA Academic All-America first team honors. She also became the first women's basketball player in conference history to win three consecutive Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards. Rininger was additionally named to the honorable mention All-Big South squad and Big South All-Academic team.

• Fellow seniors Catherine Kearney (second team All-Big South) and Sadalia Ellis (honorable mention All-Big South) each garnered their first year-end all-conference honors on Tuesday.

• This is the first season since 1995-96 that Liberty has not had a player make the first team All-Big South squad.

Bouncing Back
The Lady Flames dropped their regular-season finale by a 57-49 count to Presbyterian, Saturday at the Vines Center. Liberty has only lost back-to-back games to Big South opponents twice in Carey Green's 17 seasons as Liberty's head coach. 

A Look Back at the 2015 Big South Championship
No. 1 seed Liberty captured its 16th title in 19 years at the 2015 Big South Women's Basketball Championship at The HTC Center in Conway, S.C. 

March 5, 2015 - Quarterfinal - No. 1 seed Liberty 59, No. 8 seed UNC Asheville 51
• Liberty was able to rally from an 11-point first-half deficit, led by Ashley Rininger (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Emily Frazier (11 points, 6 assists).

March 7, 2015 - Semifinal - No. 1 seed Liberty 71, No. 5 seed Campbell 43
• Ashley Rininger (16 points, 14 rebounds) helped the Lady Flames dominate in rebounds (53-32), points in the paint (34-16) and second-chance points (21-9).

• Liberty's 28-point margin of victory was the largest in a Big South semifinal game since the Lady Flames defeated High Point, 80-43, in the 2008 semifinals.

March 8, 2015 - Final - No. 1 seed Liberty 74, No. 3 seed High Point 64
• Liberty trailed 33-24 with 5:17 remaining in the first half, before turning things around with a 28-9 run spanning both halves.

• Tournament MVP Ashley Rininger (16 points, 10 rebounds) and all-tournament team member Emily Frazier (13 points, 5 assists) led the way for the Lady Flames.

Two Away From 20
Liberty, which is hoping to win three games this weekend in Asheville, needs two victories to secure its ninth consecutive 20-win season and its 18th 20-win campaign in the last 20 years.

Salute to Seniors
Prior to tipoff of their March 5 game against Presbyterian, the Lady Flames honored seniors Katelyn Adams, Sadalia Ellis, Jaymee Fisher-Davis, Catherine Kearney and Ashley Rininger. The Lady Flames have won 115 games during the last five seasons, with the five seniors combining for 4,096 points and 2,710 rebounds.

Winning the Battle of the Boards
Liberty has outrebounded 25 of 29 opponents this season, including 16 in a row. The Lady Flames have climbed to No. 12 nationally for rebounding, through March 7.

The Container is Half Full
The Lady Flames are 105-1 under head coach Carey Green when making at least 50 percent of their field goals, including 5-0 this season. Liberty has won the last 32 times it has shot 50 percent or better, since an 83-77 loss to Kentucky in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship (March 20, 2010).

The Container is Half Empty
Liberty had held 69 straight opponents below 50 percent shooting from the field before No. 16/15 California shot 51.9 percent (28-of-54) against the Lady Flames on Nov. 28 in Las Vegas. Most recently, the Lady Flames' last 20 foes have each been held below the 50 percent mark.

Tradition of Excellence
All of the following trends are current through the 2014-15 season unless noted.
• The Lady Flames have clinched their 20th straight winning season in 2015-16. The streak started in 1996-97, the first year the Lady Flames won the Big South Championship title. Liberty was one of only 12 NCAA Division I women's basketball programs which began the 2015-16 campaign with an active streak of 19+ consecutive winning seasons.

• Liberty has posted eight straight 20-win seasons and 17 20-win campaigns in the last 19 years.

• Liberty has notched 17 consecutive seasons with 10+ Big South wins, including 2015-16.

• After earning their 15th Big South regular-season title in 18 years, the 2014-15 Lady Flames claimed their 16th Big South Championship crown in 19 seasons.

Player Trends
#2 Candice Leatherwood
• Has started each of the last four games at point guard, averaging 5.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 2.5 apg while leading Liberty to a 3-1 record. She posted 10 points and six rebounds during a March 1 victory at Winthrop.

• Hit five-of-six free throws during the final 2:29 of a Jan. 24 victory at Longwood. Leatherwood has gone to the foul line often during the final 5:00 of games this season, going 20-of-30 for 66.7 percent in those situations.

#3 Sadalia Ellis
• Honorable mention All-Big South performer

• Has scored in double figures a team-high 14 times this season

#10 Jaymee Fisher-Davis
• Averaged 9.8 ppg during the final four games of the regular season, while connecting on 11 three-pointers

• Enters the conference tournament just 14 points shy of 500 for her career

• 77.5 percent (124 of 160) of her career made field goals have been three-pointers including 28 of her last 30 made field goals. Fisher-Davis ranks seventh in program history with 124 career three-pointers made.

#23 Brooke Alexander
• Averaging 5.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.6 apg and a team-high 1.2 spg since joining the starting lineup on Jan. 16, helping Liberty go 11-2 in those games. Alexander missed the regular-season finale due to illness.

• Has recorded a 45-to-28 assist-to-turnover ratio over her last 16 games

#34 Katelyn Adams
• Averaging 8.8 ppg and 9.9 rpg over her last 13 contests

• Recorded three straight double-doubles between Feb. 1-9 and has five in her last 12 games, giving Adams a team-high six double-doubles for the season and 15 for her career

• Adams has tallied six or more rebounds in 24 of 29 games in 2015-16, including 12 10+-rebound efforts. She leads the team in rebounding and ranks third in the Big South.

• Has appeared in 127 consecutive games to start her collegiate career, putting her in a tie with Courtney Watkins (2005-08) for second place on Liberty's career games played list. The Liberty record is 132 career games played, by Avery Warley (2009-12).

#44 Catherine Kearney
• Second team All-Big South honoree

#55 Ashley Rininger
• Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year (third year in a row), honorable mention All-Big South selection and Big South All-Academic Team member (third year in a row)

• Reigning Big South Championship MVP, after averaging 15.3 ppg and 11.7 rpg while posting three double-doubles at last year's tournament. She is averaging 11.1 ppg and 8.6 rpg during eight career Big South Championship contests.

• First team CoSIDA Academic All-American for the second straight season