By: Alex Stratford – Staff Writer – email@example.com
With only 7 seconds left in overtime, freshman guard Ja’Da Brayboy pushed the UNC Asheville Bulldogs to victory over the Liberty Flames.
Brayboy stole the ball only to be fouled by Liberty’s Emily Friazer. She made the next two free throws to push the Bulldogs 83-80 in overtime.
“I went for it, got the steal and made the play,” Brayboy said. “It was a great team effort and a great team win.”
After 17 seasons the UNC Asheville Bulldogs finally upset Liberty’s five-game winning streak.
“It was a great win and it’s a great confidence builder,” said Brenda Kirkpatrick, Asheville’s head coach. “All along we having been telling them, ‘We believe in you, but you got to believe in yourselves,’ and I think this win will reinforce that belief.”
Asheville nearly tripled Liberty in 3-pointers, with guard Shonese Jones accounting for 12 of Asheville’s 3-point shots.
“One of the strategies coming into the game was to take away the post, but if we couldn’t do that then we were at least going to take away their 3-point shots,” Jones said.
According to Kirkpatrick, the Bulldogs’ strategy focused on upsetting Liberty’s rhythm and keeping the defensive pressure high.
“We didn’t do a great job of keeping them out of the paint, but we did contest most of the three point shots.” Kirkpatrick said.
In order to much up against the size of the Liberty players, Asheville matched their height with two taller players on the post, Kirkpatrick said.
“Normally we don’t have Leah Wormack playing with KJ Weaver. They sub in and out for each other, and we had them playing together some, or playing Rachel McGirt and Leah Wormack together,” Kirkpatrick said. “So we were playing our big line up at the post position to try and counter some of that size.”
Liberty upped Asheville with 49 total rebounds. The Bulldogs made up in speed what they lacked in height and rebounds to score 7 points of fast breaks, as opposed to Liberty’s one sole fast break point.
“We knew we had to attack them in transition because they’re big and not as mobile,” said Paige Love, sophomore guard.
“We capitalized on offense,” Jones said. “We only had seven turnovers, so we held possession of the ball.”
According to Jones, Kirkpatrick encouraged the Bulldogs to use their speed advantage to attack. As a direct result, Asheville scored 15 points off Liberty’s 17 turnovers. Being disciplined and forcing the turnovers was key in winning the game, according to Kirkpatrick.
“By forcing Liberty to have so many turnovers, we were able to keep possession of the ball and limit their possession,” Love said.
With less than two minutes less in overtime Liberty’s high scorer, Ashley Rininger fouled out. However, Asheville’s game plan did not change according to Love.
Six of Asheville’s players scored in the double digits, whereas only four of Liberty’s players scored in the double digits.
Jones led Asheville with 17 points, which accounted for most of the 3-pointers. Brayboy followed with 16 points and Love added 14 points. Freshman guard Tianna Knuckles contributed 12 of the points and Weaver and Brittany Gwyn both added 10 points each.
After tonight’s game Asheville advances with a 5-4 record in conference and Liberty continues with a 7-2 record in conference.
“It’s anybody’s game in the Big South right now,” Kirkpatrick said.