Conway, SC - For the first time since 2004, the Liberty Flames men's basketball team will play in the Big South Tournament championship game.
The Flames held off Gardner-Webb in Saturday's semifinals to earn their spot in Sunday's noon title game at Coastal Carolina.
John Caleb Sanders had a big game for LU, leading all scorers with 19. And Sanders got plenty of help, Joel Vander Pol added 11 points, 7 rebounds and Tavares Speaks chipped in 10.
Liberty led by as many as 11 in the second half. Gardner-Webb stormed back, but the Flames held on. The Flames improve to 14-and-20 on the season with the victory.
Tashan Newsome and Max Landis led the Runnin' Bulldogs (21-12) with 15 points, apiece. Point guard Tyler Strange finished with 12 tallies followed by Kevin Hartley, who closed out Gardner-Webb's scoring with 10 points.
The Flames shot 46.8 percent (22-of-47) from the field, compared to 39.2 percent (20-of-51) for the Runnin' Bulldogs. Dale Layer's squad outscored Gardner-Webb in the paint, 26-8. Gardner-Webb made up for the difference from the three-point arc, going 10-of-26 from downtown. Liberty finished the night shooting 62.5 percent from three-point land (5-of-8).
The Liberty women also advanced to the Big South title game by beating Campbell Saturday night 70-56.
Redshirt senior Devon Brown's 25 points and career high-tying 14 rebounds led the Flames into their sixth straight championship game.
Brown tallied 18 of her points and eight of her rebounds during the second half, helping the Lady Flames improve to 26-6 with their 13th straight victory. Liberty will attempt to win its 15th Big South Championship title in the last 17 seasons Sunday at 5 p.m. against No. 7 seed Longwood. Longwood beat Radford in Saturday's other semifinal 54-51.
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 the upset win. The seventh-seeded Lancers improved to 14-18 on the season with the victory.