Big South Roundup, Day 5: Bucs, Flames in men’s final

Arlon Harper recorded career-highs in both points (33) and rebounds (9), leading No. 1 South Charleston Southern to a 71-65 victory over No. 2 North VMI in Saturday’s first VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Men’s Basketball Championship semifinal presented by AT&T, inside The HTC Center.

Rodney Glasgow, who tallied a career-high 31 points for VMI, fueled a last-ditch comeback effort.  The junior guard scored five points during the final 44 seconds, including a three-point play at the 25-second mark which culled the once 10-point CSU advantage to just two (67-65).

Harper then put the finishing touches on Charleston Southern’s victory, going 4-of-4 at the foul line and grabbing two rebounds in the last 22 seconds.

The tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, CSU (19-11) advances to the Big South Men’s Basketball Championship game for the first time since 2005.  The Buccaneers will face either No. 2 South Gardner-Webb or No. 5 North Liberty Sunday at 12:00 p.m., live on ESPN2.  The game will also be carried by Dial Global Sports nationally on Sirius 93/XM 192.

VMI’s season ends at 14-17 after the Keydets shot just 36.8 percent (25-of-68) from the floor and 17.9 percent (5-of-28) from three-point range.

Charleston Southern struggled with its field goal shooting for the second straight game, finishing at 33.8 percent (25-of-74).  However, the Buccaneers enjoyed sizable advantages in points off turnovers (18-1) and bench points (24-6).

CSU was led by its All-Conference backcourt duo of Harper and Saah Nimley, who had uncharacteristically combined to shoot 3-of-21 from the field during Thursday’s 54-47 quarterfinal win over Winthrop.

Harper made all eight of his free throws and tied a career high with five triples.  Meanwhile, the diminutive (5-8) Nimley grabbed a team-high and career-best 12 rebounds to go along with 14 points and four assists.

* No. 5 North Liberty 65, No. 2 South Gardner-Webb 62: Junior guard John Caleb Sanders scored 19 points and Liberty made three free throws down the stretch to earn a 65-62 win over Gardner-Webb in the VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Conference Men’s Basketball Semifinal presented by AT&T Saturday.  The Flames (No. 5N) improve to 14-20 in knocking off the higher-seeded Bulldogs (No. 2S) and advance to face top-seeded Charleston Southern in the championship final at noon on Sunday.

In an earlier game, Charleston Southern defeated VMI, 71-65.  It is the first time Liberty is in the title game since 2004.

Center Joel Vander Pol broke a 62-62 tie by making one free throw and junior guard Davon Marshall added a pair of free throws with 14 seconds remaining before Gardner-Webb’s Tyler Strange and Max Landis each missed 3-point attempts in the final seconds.

Liberty led by as many as 11 points in the second half before Strange made two 3-pointers in an 11-4 run that lifted the Bulldogs into a 62-62 tie with 3 minutes remaining.  Landis and senior guard Tashan Newsome finished with 15 points apiece to lead Gardner-Webb.  Strange added 12 points and Kevin Hartley had 10.  The Bulldogs fall to 21-12 on the year.

Liberty, which never trailed after the 12:45 mark of the first half, got 12 points from Vander Pol and 10 from Taveres Speaks.  It was only the second time Vander Pol has hit double figures this season.  The 6-10 junior also grabbed 7 rebounds.

Liberty took the early lead and used a 7-0 run to gain a 17-11 advantage midway through the first half.  A dunk by Tomasz Gielo stretched the lead to 7 points at 23-15 before Gardner-Webb fought back to be down only two at the half, 32-30.

Liberty’s win avenged a 3-point regular-season loss to Gardner-Webb earlier in the year. Liberty won the Big South Conference tournament title in 1994 and 2004.

* No. 7 Longwood 54, No. 6 Radford 51: Senior guard Erin Neal scored a game-high 16 points and freshman guard Daeisha Brown scored 14 points and made two free throws in the final seconds for Longwood to secure to 54-51 upset win over Radford in the first semifinal game of the Visit MyrtleBeach.com Big South Conference women’s basketball tournament Saturday.

The seventh-seeded Lancers, now 14-18, advance to play the winner of top-seeded Liberty versus Campbell at 5 p.m. Sunday for the league title.

Longwood held a comfortable lead before senior guard Victoria Hamilton led Radford on a 16-4 run that gave the Highlanders their first lead of the game, at 49-46, with 5:15 remaining. Hamilton had 12 points in the run. From there, Longwood recovered to score 8 of the last 10 points in the game. Brown made her final free throws with 4 seconds left and Radford didn’t manage a last second shot.

Radford, which finished the season at 16-14, had three offensive possessions down only 52-51 but couldn’t score. The Highlanders were led by Hamilton, who had all 14 of her points in the second half, and junior guard Breshara Gordon, who had 13 points. Hamilton also had game-high 11 rebounds.

Longwood, which becomes only the third No. 7 seed to reach the championship final game in Conference history (since 1987), also had senior guard Chelsea Coward in double figures with 15 points.

* No. 1 North Liberty 70, No. 5 South Campbell 56: The defending champion Lady Flames spotted the Lady Camels a 14-3 lead in the first four minutes, and then responded with a 22-3 run of its own over the next nine minutes, including a 16-0 stretch, to seize control of the semifinal match-up. The Flames never trailed again in advancing to their sixth straight Big South Tournament final.

Campbell (20-11) fought back to tie the contest on two occasions, once in each half. Trailing 25-17 after Liberty’s run to take the lead, the Camels responded with an 8-0 run to tie it, but a Tolu Omotola layup just before the halftime buzzer gave the Flames a 27-25 lead at intermission. CU’s RaeChaun Edwards scored the first bucket of the second half to tie the game again, and beyond that point, Liberty’s Devon Brown took over the game.

Brown scored 12 points in the first nine minutes of the second half and led the Flames to as much as a seven-point lead in that span. She finished with a double-double of 25 points and 14 rebounds. She led three Flames in double figures as teammates Brittany Campbell and Omotola each chipped in with 11 points.

Tonisha Baker scored eight of her game-high 18 points in the opening run of the game for the Camels. She was joined in double figures by Monique Spry’s and Kiera Gaines’ 11 each. Campbell could not match the comeback effort it displayed in the quarterfinals Friday erasing a 24-point deficit to defeat High Point in overtime, 74-73.

The win is the 13th straight for Liberty (26-6), which dominated Campbell on the glass, 39-22. That advantage led to an 14-5 edge in second chance points and 38-22 in points in the paint.

The game also marked the return to the bench of Liberty head coach Carey Green, who missed Friday’s semifinal win over Gardner-Webb attending his father’s funeral. Green has led the Flames to 11 Big South Tournament titles in his 13-plus seasons, and now has his team playing for number 12. Liberty has won 14 of the last 16 league tournament championships.

Photo by Emily Beachum

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