HIGH POINT, N.C. -The High Point University women’s basketball team defeated Liberty 75-70 at the Millis Center Monday night. The Panthers move to 2-1 in Big South Conference play with the victory over the Flames. Freshman Kaylah Keys led High Point with 19 points, including 13 in the second half and redshirt-junior Lindsay Puckett added a season-high 17 points.
High Point led by 14 early in the second half but the Flames cut it all the way to three in the final minute. Junior Ashante Richard hit both free throws with nine seconds left in the game to secure the 75-70 win.
“Liberty is a championship team,” said head coach DeUnna Hendrix. “We knew they would keep fighting and find a way to get back in the game. We were able to scrap out a win with toughness and determination and I couldn’t be more proud of that. Every single player contributed when their number was called. I am not sure Lindsay Puckett could have played much harder and it was great to see Kaylah Keys battle through adversity.”
Liberty had won the last seven meetings with High Point at the Millis Center. HPU hadn’t beaten the Flames at home since a 58-53 win on March 9, 2009.
High Point hands Liberty its first Big South Conference loss of the season, dropping the Flames to 6-6 overall and 2-1 in league play. High Point improves to 6-6 on the season and 2-1 against conference opponents.
Puckett finished with a season-high 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the floor. She also grabbed four rebounds and added three assists. Keys led the team with 19 points in just 21 minutes of play due to foul trouble. She shot 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. Junior Latrice Phelps added 13 points.
Mickayla Sanders led the Flames with 16 points and Catherine Kearney came off the bench to post a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Liberty took a 5-0 lead to open up the game on baskets by Katelyn Adams and Sadalia Ellis. Keys connected on a pair of three pointers to swing the lead back in HPU’s favor 10-7 with 16:36 on the clock. Neither team was able to take control of the game, keeping the lead within three points over the next seven minutes. Phelps tied the game 19-19 at 9:07 on a fade-away jumper. On the other end of the floor Phelps pulled down a rebound and the Panthers pushed the ball ahead for a fast-break three point basket by Lindsay Puckett, giving HPU a 22-19 lead.
Both teams got in to foul trouble at the end of the first half. The last made field goal by either team was a layup by Stacia Robertson with four minutes left in the period that gave HPU a 30-27 lead. HPU made five free throws down the stretch to take a 35-29 lead in to the break.
Robertson stole the ball from Emily Frazier, passing the ball ahead to Puckett for a three-pointer to start the scoring the second half. After a three from Keys, Phelps drained two-straight 15-foot jumpers and Puckett connected on another shot from beyond the arc to open up a 12-point lead (48-36) with 15:59 on the clock.
The Panthers maintained the double-digit lead for the next eight minutes of play. Liberty cut the lead to nine on a layup by Kearney with 7:06 left in the game. The teams traded baskets until a three-pointer from Simone Brown got the Flames within five, 70-65, with 3:20 to go. After two and a half scoreless minutes Brown scored again make it a 70-67 game. Keys and Phelps made free throws to push the lead back to five with just 25 seconds left to play. Frazier scored for Liberty with nine seconds on the clock and the Flames fouled Richard on the inbound. Richard sank both free throws to secure the 75-70 win.
Robertson finished with nine points, five rebounds and four steals. Lexi Patterson chipped in six points, four steals and three assists.
The Panthers hit the road for a Big South Conference game at Coastal Carolina on Jan. 2. Tip-off at The HTC Center is set for 7 p.m.