Trailing by four heading into the fourth quarter, No. 3 seed Liberty outscored No. 6 seed Jacksonville 25-9 over the final 10 minutes to secure a 65-53 victory in the ASUN Women's Basketball Championship quarterfinals, Friday night at the Vines Center.
The Lady Flames have now won four straight games and improve to 15-15 on the season. They will move on to the semifinals on Wednesday at 7 p.m., when they will host the No. 5 seed North Florida Ospreys (15-13) at the Vines Center. No. 7 seed Kennesaw State upset No. 2 seed Stetson on Friday evening, allowing Liberty to host another ASUN Tournament game. Jacksonville sees its season end with a 14-16 record.
During Liberty's sterling fourth quarter, the Lady Flames shot 77.8 percent from the floor (7-of-9) and made 10-of-12 (83.3 percent) of their foul shots. Liberty's defense also played a key role in the final 10 minutes, as the home side held a 15-0 edge in points off turnovers and held the Dolphins without a field goal over the final 6:52.
In Liberty's victory, its first-ever ASUN postseason triumph, sophomore Bridgette Rettstatt led the way with 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
Box Score Highlights Other Liberty Individuals: Kierra Johnson-Graham – 13 points, 4-6 FG, 5-6 FT, 6 rebounds; Emily Lytle – 13 points, 3-12 3FG, 4 rebounds, 3 assists; Ashtyn Baker – 12 points, 5-8 FG, 4 rebounds.
Jacksonville Individuals: Jasmyn Brown – 17 points, 5-7 FG, 5-6 FT; Rolanda Hayes – 8 points, 3 rebounds.
Key Team Stats: Liberty shot nearly 50 percent (23-of-47, 48.9 percent) from the field in the game and connected on 61.9 percent of its shots (13-of-21) in the second half. The Lady Flames held a 31-21 edge in rebounding in the contest and forced seven Dolphin turnovers over the final 6:52 of the game.
Turning Point Liberty trailed by four (44-40) entering the fourth quarter and by six (46-40) early in the final frame following a basket from Shalonda Neely at the 9:41 mark. The Dolphins held a 50-47 edge with 6:52 left before the Lady Flames closed the game on an 18-3 run.
During that stretch, Rettstatt's layup at the 6:33 mark brought Liberty within one (50-49). Kierra Johnson-Graham's three-point play with 4:29 left made it 52-50 and put the hosts ahead for good. On the ensuing JU possession, Liberty's Emily Lytle came up with a steal and converted a three-point play of her own to extend the Lady Flames' lead to five, 55-50, with 4:20 remaining.
A jumper from the free throw line from senior captain Tatyana Crowder put the hosts up seven (57-50) with 3:40 left. Liberty made eight of 10 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Game Summary First Quarter • An evenly-played opening frame saw the two teams knotted at 16-16 after 10 minutes. Jacksonville shot 57.1 percent from the floor, with five different players entering the scoring column. • Liberty's Ashtyn Baker got off to a hot start from beyond the three-point line, knocking down both of her attempts to lead the Lady Flames with six points in the first quarter. Her second triple, coming with 46 seconds left in the period, tied the game at 16-16.
Second Quarter • Jacksonville twice held a four-point lead (25-21 and 28-24) in the quarter, but Liberty hung close. Trailing 28-24 with 1:31 left, the Lady Flames scored the final four points of the period, getting a basket from Kierra-Johnson Graham (1:08 mark) and a pair of three throws from senior Melis Ucar to even the game at 28-28 heading into halftime. • Five different Lady Flames scored in the period, while Baker led all scorers with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting at the half. Jacksonville had a 10-4 edge in points off turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.
Third Quarter • Jacksonville held the lead for over eight minutes of the third stanza, paced by Jasmyn Brown's five tallies. Brown finished with a game-high 17 points on the night. The Dolphins' lead grew to eight at 40-32 with 4:00 left on a fast break layup from Kiara Meeks. • Liberty scored eight of the final 12 points over the closing four minutes to draw within four (44-40). A pair of jumper of Baker jumpers and layups from Barbour and Rettstatt brought the Lady Flames within striking distance entering the final 10 minutes of action.
Fourth Quarter • Liberty seized the lead for good on a Johnson-Graham bucket with 4:29 to play. The hosts made six of their last seven field goal attempts in the game. Johnson-Graham and Lytle each scored seven points in the final frame. • The Dolphins turned the ball over eight times in the final 10 minutes and only made 2-of-8 shots from the floor.
Head Coach Carey Green Quote "We have just been through an entirely different adventure all season long with a lot of traveling, a lot of new challenges and different teams. So, we have gone through an adventurous season together. I'm proud of the team and their coming together moreso now. If you just look back, we are 11-3 over the last 14 games, and I don't think they're finished. I know they're not."
Notes and Nuggets • Liberty is now 21-1 all-time at home when playing in conference tournament games. • The Lady Flames will be appearing in a conference tournament semifinal for the 22nd time in the last 23 years. • Redshirt sophomore Emily Lytle made three triples on Friday evening, moving her into third place on Liberty's single-season list with 58 threes. She has the most three-pointers of any Liberty player since the 1990-91 campaign. • Liberty is now 8-5 overall at home during the 2018-19 season and 299-78 all-time at the Vines Center. • Liberty also trailed entering the fourth quarter on Jan. 26 at Jacksonville before eventually winning that game in overtime, 85-75. • The Lady Flames outrebounded their 11th consecutive opponent. Jacksonville won the rebounding battle during both regular-season matchups with Liberty. • Ashtyn Baker's 12 points were the sophomore's most since a 13-point outing at East Carolina on Dec. 13.
Up Next No. 3 seed Liberty moves on to the ASUN semifinal round, where it will host No. 5 seed North Florida (15-13) on Wednesday evening at the Vines Center at 7 p.m. The Lady Flames and Ospreys split the season series, with both teams winning on their respective home floors.
Date: Wednesday, March 13, 2019 Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Vines Center) Tipoff: 7 p.m. TV: ESPN+ Radio: LFSN Radio (90.9 FM The Light Lynchburg)