Liberty wins seventh in a row

libertyLiberty found itself in a tight battle with High Point Tuesday night at the Vines Center. The Flames ended the game making six of its last eight field goals to defeat the Panthers 55-52 to improve to 18-10 overall and 13-2 in the Big South. Liberty has now won seven games in a row and sits alone in first place in the Big South.

“I think our guys have a belief. They have a quiet humbleness about them that we can win the next possession and it’s come over a course of time” head coach Ritchie McKay said. “It’s a credit to them because they really are selfless. I’m proud of our guys for trusting and believing in the system, and believing in one another.”

Liberty’s Ryan Kemrite scored 16 points in the second half to end the contest with a game-high 21 points while the Panthers’ Andre Fox, Miles Bowman Jr. and Ricky Madison tied for  team-high honors with 14 points. The last time the Panthers were held under 60 points was on Jan. 11 when they faced Liberty.

It was a slow start on offense for both teams, as Liberty did not make its first field goal until 4:23 into the game. Lovell Cabbil kick started the Flames’ offense with five straight points for Liberty’s first lead of the game. Liberty’s defense was solid in the first 10 minutes as they held High Point to two separate scoring drought of over two minutes. The Flames went on a 6-0 run to jump out to a 13-9 lead over the Panthers.

Liberty’s defense did an exceptional job of preventing the Panthers from getting out on the fast break, as they did not allow High Point to score a fast break point. The Flames held High Point to 24 points in the first half, tying for its second fewest in a first half during conference play this season.

Cabbil led the charge in the first half with 13 points and four rebounds allowing the Flames to go into halftime with a 29-24 lead. Liberty was able to outrebound the Panthers 29-24 in the first half while dishing out seven assists off 10 made field goals.

“We feel like we have a chance to go into every game and win, just because of our defense,” A.C. Reid said. “If we come out and play defense like we’re supposed to, it will give us a great chance of winning every game.”

The Panthers came out in the second half shooting 50 percent over the first 7:30 to take a 32-31 lead, while Liberty struggled from the field. Liberty quickly retook the lead as Ryan Kemrite scored five points early in the second for the 38-35 lead.

A tight battle ensued throughout the second half as High Point came within one-point with 5:30 left in the game at 45-44. Liberty then locked down on defense, holding the Panthers to no field goals over the next 2:33 to extend its lead to 49-44 with 2:33 left.

High Point once again cut its deficit to two points, 52-50, with a minute left, thanks to a three-pointer by Fox. After making a stop on defense, Liberty brought the ball down the court and with 10 seconds left, Kemrite drained a three from the corner to make it, 55-50, and seal the win. Kemrite now moves to 34th on Liberty’s all-time scoring list with 780 career points.

“We have some great mental toughness and great character in all these guys,” Kemrite added. “We were here all summer working on it; we were here in the fall working on it. It’s just the daily grind that’s got us where we’re at right now.”

After Tuesday night’s win, the Flames will head back on the road to face Winthrop. The game will be televised on the American Sports Network. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. at the Winthrop Coliseum.

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