Up and in -- Liburdi's layup clinches berth

(Doug Sampson / Heidelberg Athletics archived photo)
(Doug Sampson / Heidelberg Athletics archived photo)

NEW CONCORD, Ohio -- With their playoff hopes on the line, senior Marisa Liburdi's layup with 0.6 seconds left sent the Heidelberg University women's basketball team home with a win and an OAC Tournament berth. The Berg defeated Muskingum University 79-77 on Saturday afternoon -- their first win in New Concord since 2010.

Heidelberg improves to 9-16, 6-12 and clinches the No. 7 seed in the OAC Tournament. Muskingum falls to 10-15, 6-12 in OAC play. The Student Princes will travel to No. 6 seed Mount Union (12-13, 7-11) on Monday.

Theresa Jackson led all scorers with 29 points and nine rebounds. Carli Patrick finished with 12 points and nine boards.

"Games like today reiterate why we play," said head coach Morgan Harrigan.  "Battling every possession for your team so you can have the opportunity to do it at least one more time."

Liburdi's heroics came as part of a madcap final minute of play. Musky's Mallory Taylor turned a two-point deficit into a two-point lead with four free throws in the span of 19 seconds left. Her fourth foul shot, coming with 1:00 left, gave the home team a 73-71 lead.

On the ensuing possession, fearless freshman Brittanie Ulmer stepped into a 3-pointer from the left wing and buried it, putting the Tricolor up, 74-73.

Following a Musky miss, Jackson snared the board. After a timeout, she was fouled coming through a screen on the inbound. With play halted, Ulmer was whistled for a technical foul for unsportsmanlike conduct. Taylor drained the pair of freebies, pushing MU back up by a point.

At the other end, Jackson hit on her first free throw, but missed her second. On the carom, Ulmer was tackled by Hallie Stocker. Injured on the play, Ulmer was unable to shot the corresponding foul shots.

In stepped senior Cassidy Frank, who calmly tickled the twine twice.

Down two, Stocker drove and was fouled. Stocker hit the first, but missed on the second. Mariah Pearson was there to grab the board.

After advancing the ball via timeout, Heidelberg turned the ball over on the inbound. On the ensuing possession, Olivia Besancon was fouled and split a pair of free throws with 3.6 seconds left to tie the game at 77.

Another timeout brought the ball to Heidelberg's half. The inbound from Stiles found Frank in the corner. Frank lobbed the pass over a pair of MU defenders to Liburdi, who placed it off the glass for the two-point lead with 0.6 seconds left.

A wide open Muskingum 3-pointer at the horn rimmed out sending the Student Princes into the tournament and knocked the Muskies out.

"We're happy to get an opportunity to compete in the conference tournament," said  Harrigan. "I couldn't be more proud of the the grit we showed today."

The Student Princes got off to a slow start, trailing 11-0 midway through the first quarter. The Muskingum run was stopped after a jumper by freshman Maddi Stiles.

A three by the sharp-shooting Cassidy Frank cut the deficit to 14-8 with two minutes remaining in the opening quarter. A baseline drive from Jackson just before the end of the period brought the score to 20-14 after one.

Down by seven, Patrick hit a 3-pointer to cut the score to 27-23 with five minutes before the half. The shot provided a momentum swing for the visitors -- as they went on a 10-0 run to pull ahead 30-27.

A Maggie Davault 3-pointer with less than two minutes before the half pushed the HU lead to 35-28. After a Muskingum free throw, a three from Patrick rattled in for a 9-point advantage.

Following a small Muskingum run, a Stiles layup at the buzzer gave the Student Princes a 40-34 lead at the break.

The Muskies used the long ball to claw their way back into the game in the third quarter. Alexandra Carson and Olivia Besancon hit 3-pointers to pull the Muskies to within four points. Frank answered at the other end with a triple to push the HU lead back to 51-44.

Following a Muskingum timeout, the home team responded with a 9-0 run to take a 53-51 lead with 3:17 remaining in the third quarter.

Besancon drained a 3-pointer with under a minute left in the third quarter to give Muskingum a 62-60 lead heading into the final period.

HU answered after Carson hit a triple with 2:56 remaining to take a 69-68 lead. An off-balance Davault jumper pushed the Berg back in front, 70-69. Stiles split a pair of free throws to give the visitors a two-point lead, which set up the frantic final moments.

NOTES & QUOTES:

The Heidelberg bench outscored Muskingum, 22-7.

Heidelberg has won in the opening round of the OAC tournament in each of the past two seasons -- including a thrilling 84-80 victory against the Purple Raiders in 2015.

Harrigan: "The girls played for each other today ... Theresa Jackson was unstoppable all game ... Carli controlled the glass ... Maddi and Maggie were our leaders ... Mariah brought her spark-plug energy ... Britt hit a huge three to take the lead ... Cass stepped in and knocked down huge free throws and had an excellent pass to set up Marisa for the winning basket."  

UP NEXT:

Tip off in Alliance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Adult tickets are $8.00 and non-OAC student tickets are $3.00. Senior tickets (62 and over) are $6.00 and OAC student admission is free.