Elyse Kiploks hit a layup off of a nice feed from Brianna Lakes with 22 seconds remaining in Friday's Big South Women's Basketball Championship quarterfinal at the Vines Center, giving No. 5 seed Charleston Southern a hard-fought 52-50 victory over the host team, No. 4 seed Liberty.
Nene Johnson had a chance to tie the score, but her pull-up jumper fell short with 1.1 seconds remaining and the Buccaneers emerged victorious in a back-and-forth game which neither team led by more than eight points all day.
Liberty's 2016-17 season ends at 13-17 despite 13 points from Johnson and Big South Freshman of the Year Keyen Green's ninth double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds) of the season. The Lady Flames saw a run of 20 straight Big South Championship semifinal appearances halted and lost a Big South Championship game at the Vines Center for the first time in program history.
Led by the backcourt trio of Ke'Asia Jackson (16 points), Breannah Bretches (12 points) and Alyssa Mann (12 points), Charleston Southern improves to 18-12 after ending a streak of 14 straight losses to the Lady Flames. CSU scored 22 points off of Liberty's 24 turnovers to defeat the Lady Flames at the Vines Center for the first time since Jan. 20, 1996.
Now 1-7 all-time against Liberty in the Big South Championship, Charleston Southern advances to the semifinals for the first time since 2012. The Buccaneers will face No. 1 seed Radford Saturday at 2 p.m. in the first of the day's two semifinals.
Lakes swished a baseline jumper on her team's first offensive possession of the afternoon before Liberty countered with a 10-2 run. Lela Sellers hit two triples during the surge, including one which gave the Lady Flames a 10-4 lead at the 5:21 mark.
CSU hit six of its last seven field goal attempts to close out the quarter, including three hoops apiece by Jackson and Bretches. Jackson's pull-up jumper cut Liberty's lead to 17-16 with 47 seconds to play in the opening period. The Lady Flames then scored five quick points to end the quarter, including Johnson's buzzer-beating triple from the left wing which put the home team on top, 22-16, through 10 minutes.
The Lady Flames remained in front until Mann scored all 12 of her points during a 14-1 Charleston Southern burst to close out the first half. The redshirt senior hit two triples during the final 1:19, sending CSU into halftime with a 36-30 advantage.
Mann scored a team-high 12 first-half points for the Buccaneers, who shot 48.6 percent (17-of-35) from the field during the first 20 minutes. CSU also scored 20 points in the paint, 10 fast break points and 16 points off of Liberty's 13 turnovers.
Liberty shot 41.7 percent (10-of-24) in the first half, led by Johnson (9 points) and Sellers (8 points).
The Lady Flames held Charleston Southern without a made field goal for the first 8:05 of the third quarter, enabling them to tie the score at 38-all on KK Barbour's two free throws at 2:41. CSU managed only six total points for the period, and the two teams were still deadlocked (42-42) entering the final 10 minutes of play.
Liberty led for most of the fourth quarter and owned a 50-48 edge after Green scored with 1:26 to play. Lakes tied the score on a second-chance hoop 26 seconds later. Liberty then committed its final turnover of the game, setting the stage for Kiploks' game winner.
The Lady Flames limited CSU to 16 second-half points, but fell to 1-12 this season when trailing at halftime.
Liberty shot 42.2 percent (19-of-45) from the field for the game, including 22.2 percent (4-of-18) from three-point range. The Lady Flames missed their last 12 triples after starting the contest by making four of their first six from beyond the arc.
CSU ended up at 42.1 percent (24-of-57) from the floor and just 12.5 percent (2-of-16) on three-point tries.
Liberty outrebounded the Buccaneers, 40-23, and scored 13 second-chance points to CSU's eight.
Green made all six of her field goal attempts on the afternoon. With her nine double-doubles, the Philadelphia native ends the year tied for second place on Liberty's freshman list with Devon Brown (2009-10), Megan Frazee (2005-06) and Elena Kisseleva (1996-97).
The Lady Flames saw senior Audrey Rettstatt wrap up her career with two points and four rebounds on Friday.
As has been the theme all season, however, Liberty's freshmen played a key role, scoring 31 of the team's 50 points. Sellers and Kierra Johnson-Graham added eight points apiece to Green's production in their Big South Championship debuts.