Megan Frazee starred in her return from injury on Monday, leading all players in both points (23) and rebounds (12).
Senior Megan Frazee, returning to the Liberty lineup after an ankle injury had sidelined her for eight straight contests, tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds after halftime, Monday evening against North Carolina A&T. Her performance lifted the Lady Flames to a 72-58 win in the opening game of the Hokie Hardwood Classic, at Virginia Tech's Cassell Coliseum. Frazee led all players in both points (23) and rebounds (12), as the Lady Flames improved to 4-7 with their third win in the last four games. Liberty advances to Tuesday's tournament championship tilt against Virginia Tech, after winning the rebounding battle by a 51-31 count and holding high-powered North Carolina A&T to a season-low 58 points. The Aggies, who had won five of their last six contests before Monday, shot just 32.8 percent from the floor to fall to 5-4. North Carolina A&T, the preseason favorite to win the MEAC championship, is now 0-2 against Big South opposition in 2008-09, after falling at Winthrop on Nov. 16. Megan Frazee made her first two field goal attempts, sparking the Lady Flames' game-opening 8-5 advantage. North Carolina A&T scored the contest's next eight points to reclaim the lead. Lamona Smalley canned a pair of foul shots at the 14:44 mark, putting the Aggies on top by a 13-8 margin. The Aggies' edge reached seven points, 21-14, when Brittanie Taylor-James swished a jumper from just inside the three-point arc, 8:30 before halftime. Liberty gradually chipped away at its disadvantage, and Amber Mays' charity toss at 1:52 provided the Lady Flames with their first lead since 8-5, at 27-26. The teams exchanged the advantage three times during the remainder of the opening stanza, before heading to the locker room deadlocked at 31. Liberty owned the advantage in most statistical categories before the intermission, shooting 38.5 percent (10-of-26) from the field, while North Carolina A&T hit just 31.0 percent (9-of-29) of its field goals. The Lady Flames also won the battle of the boards, 23-14, as Avery Warley grabbed a half-high six caroms for Liberty. Eight of the nine Lady Flames who played during the first half found the scoring column, led by Rachel Hammond's seven tallies. Amber Bland was the lone player on either team to reach double figures in the first half, tossing in 10 points for the Aggies. Hammond opened the second-half scoring, when she converted a steal into a fastbreak layup. However, North Carolina A&T countered with an 8-2 surge. Taylor-James capped the run with a long jumper, giving her team a 39-35 edge with 15:14 remaining. Liberty battled back to tie the game at 44 apiece, on another Hammond layup, before one play shifted the game's momentum significantly. Smalley was called for her fourth foul at 10:59, and the North Carolina A&T starting post player was assessed a technical foul on the same play. As a result, she was disqualified from the contest and Megan Frazee stepped to the line for a quartet of foul shots. Frazee made all four tries, giving Liberty an edge it never relinquished, 48-44. Shortly thereafter, Liberty took control of the contest with a 10-0 burst, getting all 10 of its markers from players standing 6-3 or taller. With Smalley on the Aggie bench, the Lady Flames were able to nab five offensive rebounds during the run. Kylee Beecher, who corralled three of the offensive caroms, made a putback at the 5:41 mark, lifting Liberty to its first double-digit lead, 58-48. North Carolina A&T could not get closer than eight points down the rest of the way, and Liberty closed out a 72-58 triumph. In addition to Liberty's sizable rebounding edge, the Lady Flames also owned a 36-22 advantage in points in the paint and did a good job of getting to the foul line in the second half. Liberty attempted 18 second-half free throws to the Aggies' five, connecting on 11 of the attempts. Frazee was one of three Lady Flames to reach double figures in rebounds. Warley (11 rebounds) and Beecher (10 rebounds) joined Frazee in double digits, and both equaled career highs. Warley complemented her glass work with eight points and a game-high three blocked shots. Meanwhile, Beecher, playing near her hometown of Roanoke, Va., added seven points and four assists. Hammond ended the contest with 13 points, making her one of the top 50 scorers in Liberty women's basketball history. The senior guard also fashioned her eighth multi-steal game of the year, totaling a pair of thefts. Mays added nine points and a game-high five assists for Coach Carey Green's squad. Meanwhile, Moriah Frazee's four boards boost her career total to 503 rebounds, as the senior became the 20th player in program history to eclipse the 500-rebound plateau. Three players got into double figures for the Aggies, led by Bland's 14 points. Ta'wuana Cook chipped in with 13 markers, while Taylor-James added a dozen. Jaleesa Sams paced North Carolina A&T in the rebounding column, pulling down seven boards. Liberty will face the Hokie Hardwood Classic's host team, Virginia Tech (7-4), in the championship game, Tuesday at 7 p.m. (or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 5 p.m. consolation game between Lafayette and North Carolina A&T.) The Lady Flames will be seeking a number of "firsts" in their game against the Hokies. Liberty will aim for its first-ever win against Commonwealth foe Virginia Tech and its first tournament championship of the season. The Lady Flames will also attempt to become the first visiting team to win at Cassell Coliseum in 2008-09, as the Hokies have opened the year with five consecutive home triumphs.