Bronaza Fitzgerald (6'0''-C)'s 4-foot jumper inside the lane with nine seconds left in double-overtime lifted No. 1 seed UNC Asheville over No. 2 Liberty, 64-62, to win the 2016 Big South Women's Basketball Championship Sunday at Kimmel Arena in Asheville, N.C. Asheville wins its second-ever Big South title and captures the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs also become the first host to win the tournament since they accomplished the feat in 2007. In the first overtime Championship game in Big South history, the last 20 minutes of basketball saw nine ties and nine lead changes. With the score tied 60-60 to begin the second overtime, Asheville's Paige Love (5'8''-G) made a layup at 4:39 for the lead, but Liberty's Catherine Kearney (6'6''-F/C) tied it with a put back layup with :21 seconds left. Asheville quickly called timeout, and worked a play around Big South Tournament MVP Chatori Major (5'7''-G). Major eventually drove the baseline and fed Fitzgerald inside, who promptly scored the game-winner. The Lady Flames final attempt fell short and was rebounded by KJ Weaver (6'1''-C) to seal the victory. The first overtime, Liberty's Ashley Rininger (6'4''-F/C) put the Lady Flames ahead first, but the Bulldogs rallied and eventually went ahead by two on a jumper by Tianna Knuckles (5'10''-G). Liberty tied it at 60-60 on Kearney's jumper with 20 seconds remaining. With the fourth quarter winding down, Liberty went ahead by three only to see the Bulldogs rally and take the lead at 53-51 with a minute left. Liberty's Rininger tied it with 43 ticks remaining, and Major's three-point attempt fell short to end regulation tied at 53-53. Major got the Bulldogs on the scoreboard first with a free throw and then a 10-footer after corralling a loose ball following a blocked shot. Asheville was ahead 6-0 until Katelyn Adams (6'5''-F)' put back gave LU its first points of the day. The Bulldogs went up 10-5 with 5:42 remaining in the first half as Major scored six points during the stretch. The Flames used an 11-0 run the final 2:52 of the first period to move ahead 18-12. A three from Jaymee Fisher-Davis (5'7''-G) and two free throws from Candice Leatherwood (5'6''-PG) tied the game at 12-12 with 2:29 left in the opening period. A steal by Adams and dish to Leatherwood gave Liberty its first lead of the game at 14-12 at the 2:07 mark, and a pair of Rininger free throws put LU ahead, 16-12. Another Rininger bucket inside made it 18-12. Liberty opened the second period on a 5-0 run, as Adams extended the lead to 20-12, and Fisher-Davis nailed a three to make it 23-12. Asheville's field goal drought reached 7 minutes, 55 second until Major's three-pointer at 5:47 remaining in the first half. Knuckles followed with a trey to cut the deficit to three before Rininger's jumper in the lane made the score 25-20. The teams would exchange baskets before Liberty took a 30-23 lead into halftime. The Lady Flames held Asheville to 26.7 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, including just 21.4 percent from beyond the arc. Rininger was the top scorer with 10 points at the break. Liberty lost Sadalia Ellis (5'6''-PG) three minutes into the game when she suffered an injury during a loose ball alternate possession play. Asheville used a 10-3 run to open the second half and got to within one at 34-33 when Jessica Wall hit a three before the shot clock expired with 4:21 remaining in third. It remained a one-point affair entering the fourth quarter. Asheville becomes just the third school to win both the men's and women's basketball championship in the same season, joining Liberty (2004 and 2013). Despite the loss, Liberty will represent the Big South in the WNIT.
Big South Conf. Tournament Final: UNC Asheville - Liberty 64-62, 2OT Big South Conf. Tournament Semifinals: UNC Asheville - Presbyterian 65-55 Liberty - Radford 51-41
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