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Liberty earns first berth to women's NCAAs
Posted: Saturday February 27, 1999 07:20 PM
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- Elena Kisseleva shook off an elbow to the face during warmups to score 28 points and lead Liberty to a 68-55 victory over Coastal Carolina and the Flames' third consecutive Big South Conference tournament title.
The Flames (21-7) became the first team to officially qualify for the NCAA tournament as Kisseleva, a 6-foot-1 junior from Russia, made 11 of 20 field-goal attempts all but one of her six free throws.
The two-time league player of the year, who took an inadvertent elbow from teammate Dawn Woodruff before the game, also pulled down seven rebounds. Kisseleva was helped off the floor and into the locker room by team trainers, but she was able to start the game.
"You get hit with elbows in practice every day, so I'm kind of used to it," Kisseleva said. "It knocked me out for a little while, but after a few minutes I was OK."
Kisseleva, the tournament MVP, scored 11 of Liberty's first 20 points and 26 of their first 50. But down the stretch, Liberty juniors and twin sisters Sharon and Sarah Wilkerson helped out, combining to score 13 of the Flames' final 15 points.
Liberty, the No. 1 seed, led 40-31 early in the second half before second-seeded Coastal (18-10) scored nine unanswered points to tie the game with 15:47 remaining. But the Flames responded with an 8-0 run and the Chanticleers never got closer than four points the rest of the game.
Roslane McGill scored 16 points and Cheri McNeil had 11 for the Chanticleers, which were picked to finish last in the league's preseason poll.
Last season, despite being one of only two unbeaten teams in the nation, Liberty was a 16th seed and played eventual national champion Tennessee -- the other unbeaten -- in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
"I think we deserve at least a 15th seed and maybe a 14th this year," said Liberty coach Rick Reeves.
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