What are you most thankful for this Holiday season? Without a doubt, Charlotte basketball.

The Charlotte 49ers went to all-out war this past Saturday, Nov. 24, as they traveled to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to participate in the Christmas City Classic. Just like Adonis Creed, who was in for the fight of his life in the recently released “Creed 2”, Charlotte would have to go back to back in a four round brawl against the Liberty Flames.

The game would see the 49ers come out on top with a two-point lead, winning 63-61. The 49ers were led by sophomore wing, Octavia Jett-Wilson, who put up 18 points along with four dimes and four boards. Wilson, who had been quiet to start her season out, stepped up to the challenge against this experienced Liberty team, and set the pace early on in what would prove to be the hardest fight the 49ers faced so far this year.

Senior point guard Laia Raventós finished the fight with 15 points Saturday night, shooting a solid 60 percent from three-point land, along with four assists. She also notched four steals on the other side of play, creating some key turnovers for the 49ers in both early and late game situations. Sophomore point guard Mariah Linney also made her presence known Saturday night with 13 points off of 30 minutes of play.

“Well we’re a lot better team when Tae [Octavia] plays like this,” said Head Coach Cara Consuegra. “It’s been a tough week in practice. We pushed her hard and really challenged her to be the player that we need her to be. Not just offensively, but defensively, she was a lot better today. So I’m just really proud of her for being able to take that hard coaching, and get better, and know that’s it’s because we believe in her.”

Ready for war

The Forty-Niners entered the first quarter with energy, being led by Jett-Wilson, who led the offensive charge against the Flames. Attacking at the high shoulder with a number of mid-range jumpers, Jett-Wilson gave the 49ers a step up early on, before the Flames would turn up the heat with a scoring run of their own putting them up five early in the first quarter.

Liberty’s Bridgette Rettstatt would match Jett-Wilson’s intensity, looking for every opportunity to penetrate the paint, and finding them. Charlotte’s ability to stop the ball, along with Raventós’ collecting two big steals from the Flames, allowed the 49ers to put an end any momentum Liberty had gained over the last three minutes.

A single three from Liberty’s Bridgette Rettstat extended the lead once again. With the Flames putting up a few more buckets to extend the lead even further, it would seem the 49ers would close the quarter trailing terribly, but a few hustle plays from the ladies, plus a late quarter three from Linney, would put the Niners just within three. The Flames would close the quarter up 15-12.

The Battle

The second half would pick up right where the first left off, with Charlotte gaining the lead off of a number of foul shots. Senior Raventós would wake up this quarter, gaining a little bit of swagger from behind the arc, pulling the trigger without hesitation, and giving the 49ers the lead around 23-22. A couple more blows were traded and the first half came closer and closer towards its end. Jett-Wilson would make a clutch jumper in an attempt to keep the 49ers above water but the Flames would make a couple of big-time buckets from Rettstat and Emily Lytle to close out the half 30-28.

Trading blows

The beginning of the second half would continue in the nature of the first two, with blows being traded back and forth by both teams. In reality, it would be a fight of momentum, and whose would be able to last. The Flames would make a bucket that would liven the entirety of the squad up, but a defensive effort stopping the ball in transition would kill the wave immediately, and vice-versa.

A trey ball from Liberty forward KK Barber, would stretch the margin back to five, but Jett-Wilson, with a pair of two balls and a defensive stop, would put the 49ers up 39-38. A few buckets from Charlotte’s bench would help solidify the lead, along with a layup from Linney. The Flames responded with a huge three-ball from Lytle that would end up connecting. The quarter would close tied at 42-42.

The come up

The fourth and final quarter of Saturday night’s game would be up for grabs. The 49ers would not take to kindly to how the last quarter ended, responding with two trey balls of their own from their two point guards Linney and Raventos. The Forty-Niners would again get into an all-out brawl with a big-time layup off of the Flames bench, to help close the gap created by those two triples.

Lytle, again, would respond with another monster three to tie the game at 51-51. Another three from Lytle would set the Flames up by one point, with a little over a minute left on the clock. Jett-Wilson, who undeniably set the pace offensively, would put up a floater in the closing seconds to give the 49ers their last and final lead of the night. A couple of free throws from the 49ers would extend the lead in the closing seconds of the half, and the 49ers would survive to fight another day in Christmas City Classic.

“Liberty is a great team. They’ve been where we want to go,” said Consuegra.  “They’ve been in the postseason, they’ve won championships and they have that experience that we don’t. Coming into this game, knowing it was going to be close, knowing it was going to be a battle, for us to make the right plays down the stretch to win the game, I’m just incredibly proud.”

The 49ers take on the Lehigh Mountain Hawks this Sunday, Nov. 25 to continue their journey to the Christmas City Classic tourney Championship.

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