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Virginia Edges Lady Flames in Title Game

December 29, 2009  Charlottesville, Va.  RSS
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Avery Warley made the Marriott Cavalier Classic all-tournament team, after pacing Liberty in both points (12) and rebounds (8) during Tuesday's championship game.

Avery Warley made the Marriott Cavalier Classic all-tournament team, after pacing Liberty in both points (12) and rebounds (8) during Tuesday's championship game.

Tournament MVP Monica Wright keyed a late 8-0 Virginia run, Tuesday evening at John Paul Jones Arena, helping the Cavaliers hold off Liberty and claim the Marriott Cavalier Classic title. No. 21/23 Virginia captured a hard-fought 63-54 victory over the Lady Flames.

In a back-and-forth game which featured six ties and 17 lead changes, 30 turnovers were too much for Liberty to overcome. The Lady Flames fall to 7-3, after losing for the first time in three appearances at John Paul Jones Arena.

Wright did it all for the victorious Cavaliers, who scored 35 points off Liberty's miscues. She tallied a game-high 19 points, tied the Lady Flames' opponent record with 10 steals and added six rebounds and five assists. The All-America candidate's stellar effort helped host Virginia claim the Cavalier Classic championship for the sixth season in a row and improve to 9-3.

Avery Warley scored the Lady Flames' first six points of the evening, helping Liberty take an 8-5 advantage, 4:25 into the game.

The next six minutes featured three ties and five lead changes, with neither team gaining any breathing room.

Virginia took its largest lead of the early-going, 18-14, when Paulisha Kellum canned a layup at the 9:05 mark. Her transition hoop capped a 6-0 Cavalier spurt.

The home team maintained a four-point lead until Liberty fashioned a 10-0 run. Lady Flame freshmen keyed the surge, which featured a LaKendra Washington old-fashioned three-point play and a Jelena Antic triple. The run gave blue-clad Liberty its largest advantage of the game, 28-22.

The Cavaliers responded with an 11-1 run over the final 2:35 of the stanza, taking a 33-29 halftime advantage. Wright notched six of her half-leading 13 points during the burst.

Both teams shot the ball well from the field during the first half, with Liberty hitting 47.8 percent (11-of-23) of its field goals and Virginia making 45.8 percent (11-of-24).

The Cavaliers were able to get to the charity stripe more often than the Lady Flames before intermission, making 11-of-17 foul shots as compared to Liberty's 6-of-7 effort.

Turnovers plagued both squads during the first 20 minutes, as the Commonwealth foes combined for 29 miscues. Virginia converted Liberty's 18 turnovers into 20 points.

The Lady Flames won the rebounding battle, 15-11, and scored 18 points in the paint to Virginia's 14 during the stanza.

Individually, Warley paced the Lady Flames with eight points and three boards in the first half, despite being one of three Liberty starters to pick up multiple fouls. Antic chipped in with five points, while Danika Dale came off the bench to collect a trio of rebounds.

Wright was the Cavaliers' top performer at both ends of the court, totaling 13 points, eight of her team's 13 steals and four boards during the opening period. Chelsea Shine chipped in five points and four caroms.

The Lady Flames emerged from the locker room by scoring the second half's first five points. Amber Mays' contested layup reclaimed the lead for Liberty, 34-33.

Five consecutive points by Rachel McLeod boosted the Lady Flames' edge to 41-37, with 14:37 remaining on the second-half clock.

Visiting Liberty still owned a 43-42 edge, before a 9-2 Cavalier surge. Telia McCall contributed four points to the run, including a pair of free throws at 8:09 which made the score 51-45, in favor of Virginia.

After the Lady Flames pulled to within three on a Mays free throw with 7:06 left, Virginia put together its crucial 8-0 run. Wright contributed two points, two rebounds and two assists to the decisive surge, which provided the Cavaliers with their only double-digit lead of the night. McCall's hoop at the 3:34 mark bolstered Virginia's advantage to 59-48.

Liberty pulled to within seven points twice in the closing minutes, but ended up losing for only the fourth time in 19 all-time tournament championship game appearances under Carey Green. The final count was 63-54.

The two teams' aggressive defenses contributed to a total of 50 turnovers in the game. The Cavaliers ended up with 19 steals, while Liberty had 10.

Virginia also took advantage of its numerous opportunities at the foul line, making 73.1 percent (19-of-26). Liberty hit 80 percent of its free throws, but got to the stripe 16 fewer times than the Cavaliers.

Both sides shot comparably well from the field, with Virginia finishing at 42.9 percent (21-of-49) and Liberty at 40.7 percent (22-of-54).

The Lady Flames continued to get the upper hand in the paint during the second half, finishing the game with a 36-28 edge in points in the paint. Liberty also tracked down 16 offensive boards, part of a 34-26 rebounding advantage on the night.

Warley, the Lady Flames' lone all-tournament team representative, paced Liberty in both points (12) and rebounds (8). With her eight caroms, Warley is now one of the top 40 rebounders in program history (334 career rebounds), less than one and a half seasons into her career.

Devon Brown, sidelined by foul trouble for much of the first half, tallied seven of her nine points after halftime. She also posted six rebounds, a trio of steals and a game-high two blocks.

Mays also came up with three steals, to go along with seven points and three assists.

McCall backed up Wright offensively for the Cavaliers, posting nine of her career-high 14 points during the final 20 minutes. China Crosby joined Wright on the all-tournament roster, after tallying nine points and four assists.

Liberty will open Big South Conference play Saturday at 3 p.m., with a rematch of the 2009 Big South Championship title contest. The Lady Flames will travel to Gardner-Webb to face the Bulldogs, who currently own the conference's best overall record at 10-2.

Meanwhile, Virginia will also take to the road on Saturday. The Cavaliers will fly across the country to meet Big 12 foe Colorado. Tip time is slated for 5:30 p.m. in Boulder, Colo.

Marriott Cavalier Classic All-Tournament Team
Monica Wright, Virginia (MVP)
China Crosby, Virginia
Avery Warley, Liberty
Emily London, Samford
Allie Fedorowicz, Cornell

Tournament Champion: Virginia (2-0)