John Brown (left) finished with eight points and Antwan Burrus (right) chipped in nine points in Liberty's Big South quarterfinals match-up against High Point on Thursday
High Point junior Shay Shine scored 20 of his game-high 26 points after halftime at the Vines Center. His effort helped the No. 7 seed Panthers erase a nine-point second-half deficit and defeat No. 2 seed Liberty, 66-60 in the Quarterfinals of the 2011 Advance Auto Parts Men's Basketball Championship, Tuesday, March 1.
High Point (12-18) advances to the Semifinals for the first time since 2008 and will play No. 3 seed UNC Asheville Thursday night at 6:00 pm live on ESPNU. The contest will be played inside Coastal Carolina's Kimbel Arena in Conway, S.C.
The Panthers, who shot 70.6 percent (12-of-17) from the field during the second half, halted a three-game losing skid. It was also High Point's first win at the Vines Center since Jan. 24, 2002. Liberty had defeated the Panthers the last 10 times they had visited Lynchburg.
Liberty drops to 19-13 with its fifth consecutive setback. Conversely to the Panthers, the Flames shot only 39.4 percent (13-of-33) during the final 20 minutes.
Liberty's first three field goals of the evening came from beyond the three-point arc, including a pair of triples by Evan Gordon. The sophomore's trifecta from the right wing at the 16:41 mark gave the Flames an early 9-4 advantage.
Black-clad High Point used a three-pointer of its own, courtesy of Tehran Cox, to trim its deficit to 11-9, 15:42 before halftime.
Antwan Burrus netted the last five points of the Flames' ensuing 7-0 burst, including a layup from the right block at the 11:37 mark which made the score 18-9, Liberty.
The Flames managed only one made field goal during the next 8:17, enabling High Point to reel off a 15-3 run. Xavier Martin recorded the surge's final five markers, including a three-pointer from deep in the left corner at 4:14. The freshman's triple put High Point on top by a 24-21 count.
The Panthers maintained the lead for the remainder of the opening half, taking a slim 26-25 advantage into the locker room at the break.
High Point shot 40.7 percent (11-of-27) from the field during the first half, slightly better than Liberty's 40 percent (10-of-25) clip. The Panthers also outrebounded their hosts for the period by an 18-14 count. In a cleanly played half, the two teams committed only three turnovers apiece.
Martin paced all players with seven first-half points, while teammate Travis Elliott grabbed six rebounds for the Panthers.
Gordon's six points led Liberty's offensive attack before halftime. John Brown added a half-high seven caroms.
The lead changed hands three times during the first three minutes of the second half, before a 12-2 run by the Flames. Jesse Sanders converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 14:27 left, capping the surge with Liberty owning a 39-30 edge.
High Point responded with a 9-2 spurt, featuring five Nick Barbour points. The all-conference honoree's mid-range jumper at 11:45 cut the Flames' advantage to 41-39.
John Caleb Sanders halted the Panthers' momentum by tallying five of the game's next six points. His efforts started a stretch where John Caleb and Jesse Sanders combined to score 16 straight tallies for the Flames. Liberty's lead reached 46-40 after John Caleb Sanders' driving layup with 10:42 remaining in the half.
Aided by Shine, High Point continued the back and forth flow of the second half. The junior guard scored 10 consecutive points during a pivotal 12-0 burst by the Panthers. His three-pointer from the right wing at the 6:44 mark gave High Point a 52-46 cushion, one which it never relinquished.
The Sanders brothers helped Liberty halve its deficit to 54-51 by the 4:41 mark, thanks to a John Caleb Sanders trifecta and two Jesse Sanders charity tosses.
The Flames went more than five minutes between made field goals, misfiring on six straight attempts, all of which came from three-point range. During Liberty's drought, High Point added six points to its edge. Cox's free throw with 1:21 left gave the Panthers their largest lead of the night, 60-51.
Jesse Sanders spearheaded the Flames' furious comeback attempt in the final minute. Liberty cut the gap to 61-60 with 26 seconds to play after the Big South Player of the Year provided a three-pointer, a three-point play and an assist on Gordon's fourth triple of the night within the span of 25 seconds.
However, Liberty did not score again, missing a free throw and a jump shot on its final two offensive possessions. Meanwhile, High Point sealed its 66-60 victory with a Barbour layup in transition, two Shine free throws and a Cox foul shot.
The Panthers ended the game shooting 52.3 percent (23-of-44) from the floor, including 33.3 percent (6-of-18) from three-point range. High Point struggled a bit at the foul line, finishing at 56 percent (14-of-25).
Liberty shot 39.7 percent (23-of-58) for the contest, hitting just 26.7 percent (8-of-30) of its three-point tries. The Flames got to the foul line only nine times, making six of the attempts for 66.7 percent.
High Point owned a slight rebounding edge, collecting 32 caroms to the Flames' 30.
Shine, who finished just one point shy of his career high, was one of four Panthers to score in double figures. Barbour and Cox chipped in 11 points apiece, while Martin posted 10 markers. Elliott was High Point's leader on the boards with nine rebounds. Cox came up with four of the victors' six steals.
Sanders paced the Flames with 15 points, 11 of which came after halftime. He also distributed a game-high six assists and grabbed five rebounds. Gordon ended up with a dozen points for Liberty, with all of his production coming from three-point range. Brown's 13 boards led all players. High Point Head Coach Scott Cherry Quotes "These two guys sitting next to me (Shay Shine and Tehran Cox) made some really big plays. Shay with some of the shots he made and Tehran with some of the plays he made late. We came here hungry, even though we didn't finish the season on a high note. These kids have been resilient all year long and they fought and battled tonight. But give Liberty credit. They had a great year."
Liberty Head Coach Dale Layer Quotes "It was a really hard-fought game, and I'm extremely proud of our team. This loss does not define us. We battled, fought and overachieved all year, and I hate that it had to end this way. However, it does not diminish what I think about our group. I would like to congratulate High Point on tonight's victory and wish them the best of luck as they advance in the tournament."