North Liberty Wins Big South Men's Basketball Championship - Mar 11, 2013
CONWAY, S.C. -- No. 5 North Liberty captured its first VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Men's Basketball Championship title since 2004 Sunday afternoon, upsetting No. 1 South Charleston Southern, 87-76, inside The HTC Center. Guards John Caleb Sanders (6'0''-G), Davon Marshall (5'11''-PG) and Tavares Speaks (6'4''-G) combined for 65 points during the final step of the Flames' most improbable journey to the conference championship.
Liberty (15-20), which never won more than three straight games during the regular season, earned its third Big South title with four tournament victories in six days. The Flames ousted host Coastal Carolina and both the Big South North (High Point) and South Division (Charleston Southern) champions along the way. Head coach Dale Layer 's Flames become just the second 20-loss team ever to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, joining Coppin State (16-20) in 2008.
Charleston Southern falls to 19-12 despite putting five players in double figures, led by Saah Nimley (5'8''-PG-93) 18 points. As the Big South overall No. 1 seed, the Buccaneers earn the Conference's bid to the NIT Tournament. It will be CSU's first postseason appearance since a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 1997.
Nimley and teammate Arlon Harper (6'1''-G-93) (14 points on Sunday) joined Sanders (career high-tying 27 points), Marshall (20 points on 6-of-7 three-point shooting) and Speaks (18 points, career-high nine rebounds) on the All-Tournament team.
Marshall was voted Tournament MVP after setting a tournament record with 17 made triples during Liberty's four victories. The junior point guard, who shot 17-of-24 from long range during the tournament, now ranks second on Liberty's single-season list with 101 made triples.
Proficient shooting was one of the keys to the Flames' victory on Sunday, as Liberty finished at 48.2 percent (27-of-56) from the field, 50 percent (9-of-18) from three-point range and 80 percent (24-of-3) from the foul line.
Additionally, Liberty grabbed 39 rebounds to the Buccaneers' 32, despite the fact that CSU brought a +4.3 rebound margin into the game.
After trailing by one point at the intermission, Charleston Southern scored six of the second half's first eight points, taking its largest lead of the game at 40-37 on a Harper three-pointer with 18:12 left.
But Liberty answered with a 9-2 burst retaking the lead for good. The Flames built a 46-42 lead when Marshall's triple found the bottom of the net at 16:39.
The Flames built their first double-digit advantage (58-48) with 10:27 on the clock, when Joel Vander Pol (6'10''-C) banked one home from short range.
CSU trimmed the gap to six points at 60-54 after Harper hit two free throws with 8:31 to play.
Tomasz Gielo (6'9''-F-93) then scored five points during Liberty's ensuing 8-0 burst, including a back-breaking triple from the left wing which bolstered the Flames' edge to 14 (68-54) with just 5:28 remaining.
Charleston Southern could get no closer than eight the rest of the way, as Liberty cemented its triumph by making 15-of-18 free throws over the final 2:29.
Liberty got off to a strong start, as three-pointers by Sanders and Marshall gave the Flames a 6-0 lead out of the gate.
A pair of Marshall three-pointers bookended an 8-0 Liberty run which gave the Flames an 18-12 advantage at 10:32, matching the largest lead of the opening period.
Charleston Southern led four different times during the opening half, but only for a total of 1:07.
The Flames took a 35-34 halftime advantage, after Speaks canned a jumper from just inside the three-point line as time expired.
Sanders (12 points) and Marshall (11) combined for 23 first-half points and all five of Liberty's made three-pointers. The Flames also owned a 21-17 rebounding edge, with Juan Coronado (6'8''-F-90) and Vander Pol pulling down five boards apiece.
CSU took advantage of Liberty's five first-half turnovers, converting them into 11 points. Jeremy Sexton and Harper paced the Buccaneers' scoring attack in the first 20 minutes, tallying seven points apiece.
Liberty Head Coach Dale Layer "Just to think that this team had lost its first eight games and hat two guys quit during the middle of the year, to have its second-leading scorer and leading rebounder never play a minute this season ... To go through all of that, it's only God's grace and these guys' character that held it all together. This is just a tribute to what God has done in our hearts, in us and through us, to get us to this point.
"We've been chasing lions all year and it's just humbling. You try to grind out in the face of adversity. A lot of men quit after losing eight straight. Not these two. Not those guys in the locker room. They'll never forget this and will never be the same because of it.
"I'm just looking at the players' faces and trying to soak in every moment. That's what you do it for. It's about these kids and what they've done.
Charleston Southern Head Coach Barclay Radebaugh "First, congratulations to Liberty. What a terrific job by Coach Layer to win four games in six days to win a championship is a terrific accomplishment by him, his staff and his players. It just wasn't our day. We had a hard time stopping them defensively. They made some nice plays. I certainly respect their game plan.
"Our guys fought. We didn't shoot the ball great, but we fought. Our guys are champions. No one can take away that we're the Big South regular-season champions, the South Division champions and are going to the NIT. The accomplishments by this group of young men are getting better every year. I'm very excited for the opportunity to play in the NIT and represent Charleston Southern and the Big South Conference in postseason play.
"I'm really proud of our guys. We're a really young team. We have a lot of basketball left in us. We accomplished four of our five goals this year and have almost everybody back. I'm so impressed with how they've improved and how much they want to win."
Courtesy of BSC
Big South Conf. Tournament Final: Liberty - Charleston S. 87-76 Big South Conf. Tournament Semifinals: Liberty - Gardner-Webb 65-62 Charleston S. - VMI 71-65
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