HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University women’s basketball team took an 81-73 loss to Liberty in the Big South title game on Sunday at the Millis Center. The Panthers got 27 points from Erin Reynolds and 23 points and nine rebounds from Shamia Brown. HPU will advance to its second-ever WNIT.
“I am once again so proud of the effort that this team performed with today,” head coach Jennifer Hoover said. We came out and really attacked and that gave us confidence. That was important for us. We had the game plan we needed and the kids executed it but the foul trouble hurt us. Liberty is a very good team and you have to give them a ton of credit. We are still a work in progress and I am so proud of this whole team.”
Reynolds shot 9-19 in the game and 5-8 from three point range to tie High Point’s Big South tournament scoring record with 27 points. It was the junior’s fourth-straight 20 point game and her tenth of the season. Reynolds’ five three pointers tied the Big South record for made three pointers in a final. The guard also led the team with five assists and three steals.
Brown joined Reynolds with 20 points, making them the first pair of teammates to both score 20 points in a Big South Championship game. Brown shot 10-21 from the field and carried the Panthers with 12 of High Point’s first 13 points. Sophomore Cheyenne Parker finished with seven points to go along with a team-high 12 rebounds. The center also set a new Big South Championship game record with five blocks in the contest.
Devon Brown led the Flames, posting a double-double with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Tournament MVP Avery Warley also had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds in 23 minutes of action and freshman Reagan Miller chipped in with 15 points and a team-high eight assists.
The loss was High Point’s third in as many tries in the Big South Championship. The Panthers fall to 20-12 on the season while Liberty improves to 24-8.
Liberty took the early lead as Devon Brown hit a three from the corner and scored on a layup off an offensive rebound to put the Flames up six, 11-5 at the first media timeout. The lead remained at six with 12 minutes remaining when Shamia Brown hit on two-straight layups and junior Laura Whitt had a putback to tie the game at 15-15.
The two teams traded buckets until a three from the corner by LaKendra Washington and a layup off an inbounds by Tolu Omotola put the Flames back up five, 24-19, with seven minutes left in the first half.
Down five, Reynolds took control of the game for High Point, scoring the Panthers next 16 points to turn a five-point deficit into a six-point lead, 35-29, with two minutes left. Reynolds started her run with a three from the top of the key and followed with a steal and layup to tie the game at 24. Following a Liberty free throw by Danika Dale, Reynolds was fouled going to the basket and converted the two free throws to give HPU the lead.
The Flames cut the High Point lead down to two, 35033, with 44 seconds remaining in the half thanks to two free throws by Brown and a jumper by Catherine Kearney but Whitt drained a trey from the corner to make the halftime score 38-33.
The second half started much like the first, as Warley scored six-straight points for Liberty to move the Flames within three. The lead would shrink to just one before a layup by Parker and a three by Reynolds pushed the advantage back to six, 47-41, with just over 14 minutes left in the contest.
High Point still led by six points with 11:21 remaining in the game after a putback by Shamia Brown but the Flames began to chip away at the deficit and went ahead 59-56 on Jasmine Gardner’s lay-in at 8:06. Reynolds tied it at 59-59 with her fifth triple of the day, but Omotola put Liberty ahead for good with her layup with 6:48 remaining. Behind Devon Brown, Liberty enjoyed a late double-digit lead to pull away from the Panthers, who were without Parker and Reynolds due to both players fouling out.
Reynolds and Parker were both named to the Big South All-Tournament team for their performance over the three games. Reynolds led all scorers in the tournament with 73 points for an average of 24.3 per game. The junior also averaged six assists and four steals per game. Parker averaged a double-double for the three games with 13.7 points and 13.7 rebounds per game and led all players with 12 blocked shots.
It is the fourth time that High Point has had two players named to the All-Tournament team. The pair of Panthers were joined on the All-Tournament team by Warley, the tournament MVP, Devon Brown and Radford’s Da’Naria Erwin Spencer.
HPU will advance to the WNIT for the second time in team history. The Panthers previously made the WNIT field in 2007 when they fell to Charlotte by a score of 72-45. Pairings for the tournament will be announced on Monday night.