A long time coming

Lady Flames lose to Coastal Carolina for the first time in more than 20 years

The Lady Flames Basketball team fell to Big South foe Coastal Carolina 58-51 in the fnal conference meeting between the two teams Saturday, Feb. 20 at the Vines Center.

It was the first time in more than 20 years the Chanticleers had beaten the Lady Flames since a Feb. 19, 1996 victory. The loss ended a 45-game winning streak held by the Lady Flames, which was the second-longest active winning streak in NCAA Women’s Division I basketball.

Setting up — Senior guard Sadalia Ellis dribbles upcourt against Coastal Carolina. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

Setting up — Senior guard Sadalia Ellis dribbles upcourt against Coastal Carolina. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

The Flames made a stunning comeback in the first meeting against the Chanticleers at The HTC Center and looked to rekindle some of that fire after a rough first half, but fell short in the closing seconds of the game.

“We just didn’t get in the right position,” Liberty Head Coach Carey Green said. “I was really surprised with our decision making.”

Liberty dug themselves into a first half hole by making poor decisions with the ball, and committing 13 first half turnovers, 11 of which came in the second quarter.

“They were trying to get us rattled, and we fell right into their traps,” sophomore guard Candice Leatherwood said. “We dribbled into traps and we made some unforced turnovers trying to pass it to someone that’s covered.”

After pressuring the Lady Flames with a full court press and knocking down eight three-pointers, the Chanticleers built an 18-point first half lead of 42-24.

The second half was different for the Lady Flames. They held Coastal to just five third quarter points and scored 15 of their own to cut the deficit to eight points.

“It was primarily the heart of a champion to fight back,” Green said. “From a strategy standpoint we did very little, it was more of the determination.”

The crowd roared when Leatherwood nabbed her second straight steal and ran the length of the floor for a lay in that cut the lead to six.

Green said the was team sparked by aggressive play off the bench from Leatherwood, who did a good job of getting to the foul line and getting easy buckets in transition.

Senior guard Sadalia Ellis also contributed to the second half turnaround.

“Sadalia and Candice’s defensive efforts were excellent and started the turn of our team,” Green said. “It was difficult to keep them fresh with how fast the game was.”

Coastal hit a buzzer beater to gain some momentum heading into the fourth quarter, which propelled them to find their footing for the rest of the second half.

“Liberty is a championship program so you know they are going to make runs,” Coastal Carolina Head Coach Jaida Williams said. “And the key is to maintain our poise through their runs.”

Late in the fourth quarter, Chanticleers sophomore guard Josie Utley hit a three-pointer that gave Coastal Carolina some breathing room late in the game.

The Flames had chances to draw closer but uncharacteristically missed some late free throws that were crucial. For the season, the team shoots 70 percent from the free throw line but shot just 47 percent for the game.

Green said this loss will not be easily forgotten since it was the last meeting against Coastal Carolina before they move to the Sun Belt Conference.

“I want us to be prepared for the tournament and playing our very best,” Green said.

The Lady Flames next game is Saturday, Feb. 27 at home against Longwood University. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Collier is a sports reporter.

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