Thursday, March 11, 2010

Liberty's Brown, Warley among Big South's best

Devon Brown and Avery Warley (left) played like first-team All-Big South performers all season, and Thursday night, the league made it official. It's the eighth time Liberty has had two first-teams and second in three seasons. Megan and Moriah Frazee accomplished the feat in 2007-08.

We thought Brown, a redshirt freshman from Waynesboro, might claim the league's top player honors, too. She led the Big South in scoring (16.5 ppg), ranked third in rebounding (8.4 rpg) and ranked among the league's top 10 in five other categories. Instead, Gardner-Webb senior Margaret Roundtree was named the Player of the Year. Rountree can't match Brown statistically; in fact, she didn't even lead her own team in scoring (12.4 ppg). But the voters apparently put great weight on:

- The fact that Gardner-Webb won the conference;

- The Lady Bulldogs' 2-0 record against Liberty head-to-head.

That Brown struggled with her shot in both games against the Lady Bulldogs only enhanced the case for Roundtree. As it turned out, Brown didn't even finish second in the voting; Gardner-Webb's Dominque Hudson was the runner-up. But hey, first-team All-Big South as a freshman is awfully good. Let's face it, when the season began most basketball fans didn't know Devon Brown from Buster Brown.

Warley, a redshirt sophomore from Washington, came on strong and posted nine double-doubles in her last 13 games. She led the Big South in field goal percentage (.596) for the second straight yera and ranked second in rebounding (8.7 rpg).

Also honored was Liberty freshman Jelena Antic (All-Freshman team), who battled injuries all year but still finished third on the team in scoring (8.4 ppg) and rebounding (5.1 rpg); and sophomore Kylee Beecher, whose 3.76 GPA landed her a spot on the All-Academic team.

Now it's on to the Big South Tournament, which runs Friday through Sunday at High Point. The second-seeded Lady Flames (24-5) open with a quarterfinal game against No. 7 Radford at 5:30 p.m. It's a great draw for Liberty, which has handled the Highlanders with ease in two meetings this season. In fact, Liberty is 6-0 against the three other teams on its half of the eight-team bracket with an average victory margin of 27 points. Barring a near-miraculous reversal of fortune, the Lady Flames will be in Sunday's final.

As for Radford, what a bizarre season. The Highlanders started out 1-10, then went 4-1 with a victory over Gardner-Webb, then closed with another 1-10 mark. Ironically, had they done even worse, they would have been relegated to an eighth seed but landed a much more favorable first-round matchup with Gardner-Webb. In addition to handing the Lady Bulldogs their only Big South loss, the Highlanders also took them to overtime in the rematch.

Against Liberty, however, the Highlanders have the same problem as most other Big South teams - an inability to score. Radford averaged just 39 points a game in their two meetings with the Lady Flames. With no hope of a postseason bid, we're sure the Highlanders will lay it all on the line Friday against the Lady Flames. But unless they can hold Liberty to, say, 35 points, just playing hard probably won't be enough.

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