High Point began the second quarter with an 18-0 run, taking the lead for good on its way to a 78-69 victory over Liberty, Tuesday evening at the Millis Center.
Led by the freshman duo of Keyen Green (22 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Kierra Johnson-Graham (11 points, 5 rebounds), Liberty was able to cut a 19-point deficit to five on two occasions during the fourth quarter.
But the High Point pair of Kaylah Keys (season-high 26 points, 6 rebounds) and Emma Bockrath (25 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals) helped keep the Lady Flames at bay, combining for 15 fourth-quarter points as High Point won its sixth straight game.
Liberty drops to 9-15 overall and 8-5 in the Big South, falling into a tie for fourth place in the conference standings with Charleston Southern and Presbyterian. The Lady Flames have lost back-to-back Big South games for just the fourth time under Head Coach Carey Green but the second time this season.
Liberty was outrebounded 40-35 and shot just 10.5 percent (2-of-19) from three-point range. The Lady Flames are now shooting 9.4 percent (3-of-32) from beyond the arc during their two-game skid which has dropped them to 2-12 away from the Vines Center.
High Point improves to 11-13 overall and 9-4 in conference play, claiming sole possession of first place in the Big South standings. The Panthers posted their first victory in their last seven meetings with Liberty thanks to an impressive shooting night.
High Point finished at 42.9 percent (24-of-56) from the floor, 50 percent (5-of-10) from three-point range and 75.8 percent (25-of-33) from the foul line. The Panthers also saw Bockrath go over the 20-point mark for the fourth game in a row.
The first quarter included five lead changes and four ties, before Liberty emerged with a 16-15 edge at the end of 10 minutes. Both the Big South Player of the Week (Bockrath – 10 points) and Big South Freshman of the Week (Green – 5 points) got off to strong starts for their respective teams.
High Point opened the second quarter with the aforementioned 18-0 run, holding the Lady Flames scoreless for nearly eight minutes to start the period. Keys scored eight points during the surge, and Bockrath's hoop at the 4:26 mark gave the Panthers their largest lead of the opening half, 33-16.
Liberty scored seven of the half's final 11 points, battling back to a 37-23 deficit at the intermission. Led by Bockrath's 18 points, High Point shot 56.5 percent (13-of-23) from the field before halftime and held Liberty to 32.1 percent (9-of-28).
High Point also outrebounded Liberty, 19-10, during the first half. Green was the Lady Flames' top performer in the first 20 minutes, contributing nine points and a pair of blocked shots.
Liberty's offensive struggles continued in the third quarter, as the Lady Flames shot just 35.3 percent (6-of-17), including 0-of-7 from three-point range. As a result, High Point was able to take a pair of 19-point leads (45-26 and 47-28). Liberty then closed the quarter on a 10-4 surge, aided by Jordan Woods' four points. The Lady Flames trailed, 51-38, heading to the final 10 minutes.
After Keys started the fourth-quarter scoring with a three-pointer, Liberty outscored the Panthers 16-5 over the next 4:10, keyed by six Johnson-Graham points and four more from Green. The Lady Flames trailed just 59-54 after Nene Johnson split a pair of free throws with 5:39 to play.
Keys and Bockrath then notched consecutive hoops to kick-start High Point's ensuing 6-0 surge, and Liberty got no closer than seven the rest of the night despite recording its highest-scoring quarter (31 points) of the season.
Liberty scored 10 more points in the paint (40-30) than the home team but finished the game at just 38.1 percent (24-of-63) from the field. The Lady Flames did shoot well from the foul line (82.6 percent, 19-of-23), including 92.3 percent (12-of-13) during their furious fourth-quarter comeback attempt.
Green, who has now scored 48 points in two meetings with High Point this season, tallied nine of her 22 points in the fourth quarter. Johnson-Graham contributed eight of her 11 points after halftime, finishing one point shy of her career high.
Johnson added nine points, a team-high five assists and a team-high three steals for the Lady Flames. The junior point guard has recorded at least one steal in all 13 Big South games.
Keys' 26 points give the senior 51 markers against the Lady Flames this season and 144 points in nine career matchups with Liberty.
Up Next Liberty will return home to face Charleston Southern (14-10, 8-5 Big South) on Friday. The Lady Flames' annual Play4Kay game in support of breast cancer awareness will tip off at 7 p.m. at the Vines Center.
The Lady Flames will look to snap their two-game losing skid and complete a season sweep of the Buccaneers, after opening Big South play with an 81-72 triumph at CSU on Jan. 3. Liberty has won 22 straight meetings with Charleston Southern at the Vines Center.