By Demetrius Dillard
No. 8 Johnson C. Smith 62, No. 1 Fayetteville State 54
Perhaps the biggest story of the day was the top-ranked Fayetteville State women’s basketball team being upset by Johnson C. Smith, one of the lower-ranked teams entering the tournament.
After a sizable win over Virginia Union in the opening round of action, the Golden Bulls kept the momentum going, making all the right plays down the stretch to escape with arguably the biggest win in the tournament so far.
Holding a narrow 30-29 lead at the break, JCSU matched a 15-point scoring effort with FSU in the third to retain the one-point lead heading into the final frame.
The Broncos responded by building a seven-point lead in the fourth but JCSU remained resilient. The Golden Bulls stormed back to regain control of the game, highlighted by a 3-pointer from Shaniya Jones that evened the score at 52. The Golden Bulls finished the afternoon on a 10-2 run en route to the huge victory.
Jones led the way with a game-high 27 points while La’Zarea Bowens recorded a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Fayetteville State was led by Imani Elliott, who netted 13 points.
No. 2 Lincoln 78, No. 7 Virginia State 57
After trailing 28-27 at the half, second-ranked Lincoln gained control of the game and sailed to a comfortable win over a solid VSU squad to begin its quest to repeat as the CIAA Tournament champions.
Three Lincoln players finished with double-doubles: Maya Madison Walker, Kania Pollock and D’Ayzha Atkinson. The Lions’ ability to consistently get defensive stops and push the ball in transition led to the momentum shift and eventually the 78-57 quarterfinal round win on Wednesday afternoon.
Pollock, who was awarded the game MVP, recorded 15 points, 13 boards, and five assists to lead the way for the defending conference titlists. Atkinson had 16 points and 10 rebounds while Walker added 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Lions.
In the first half, the Lions shot an abysmal 27.5 percent from the field. But the way they bounced back in the second half was hard to stop, especially in the fourth quarter when they outscored the Trojans, 30-15.
Jaleesa Lanier chipped in with 13 points and Anyssa Fields registered nine points to go with 11 boards. Virginia State was coming off a slim first-round win over Livingstone and was unfortunately a few players down due to injury.
Sommer Blakemore led all scorers with 24 points in the losing effort.
As time progressed the game became increasingly lopsided, especially in the rebounding area. Lincoln finished with 54 rebounds to VSU’s 25, which was one of the most noticeable differences down the stretch.
“We preach rebounding, we work on it. We’ve been working on specific, detailed box-out drills,” Lincoln Head Coach Janice Washington said after the win.
“Understanding how limited Virginia State was on the interior – we became a little more intentional about [rebounding] and we were able to capitalize off of that.”
Tomorrow at 8 p.m., Lincoln will face the winner of No. 3 Winston-Salem State and No. 6 Shaw, who will square off today at noon.
No. 1 Virginia Union 75, No. 9 ECSU 64
Virginia Union guards Keleaf Tate recorded 26 points, six rebounds, and five assists, and forward Robert Osborne finished with 26 points and eight boards to lead the top-ranked Panthers to a 75-64 win over Elizabeth City State in a quarterfinal match on Wednesday night.
For about the first 25 minutes or so, the game was back and forth. VUU went on a run and ECSU would respond with a run of its own. The Vikings closed a 22-11 deficit to 31-29 by halftime, and it seemed as if the contest may come down to the wire.
But there was a moment in the game that seemed to prompt what became a permanent momentum shift.
With the game tied 36-36 early in the second half, Tate was forced to shoot a 70-foot heave with only a second on the shot clock and it miraculously went in. Not only was that perhaps the most notable highlight of the day, but it was the beginning of an 18-2 scoring run by the Panthers that gave them a 54-38 lead just beneath the midway point of the second half.
From that point, VUU never relinquished its lead.
“It was a good game, good team effort, but I can’t say enough about my seniors here – Keleaf Tate and Robert Osborne; they played an awesome game,” VUU Head Coach Jay Butler said.
Outside of Tate’s and Osborne’s contributions on the offensive end, some of the key factors in maintaining control in the critical moments of the evening was VUU’s ability to break its opponent’s full-court press and trap defenses while keeping ECU’s ‘twin towers’ at bay. Vikings big man Amadou Faye, who stands 6-foot-11, got in early foul trouble and was held to five points and five rebounds. Deandre Wilkins, a 6-foot-10 center, had three points and eight rebounds.
“This is a business trip at the end of the day. We’ve been working on this since last summer to get back to the moment,” Osborne said. “We’re taking it one game at a time and we’re taking it extremely seriously.”
Raemaad Wright was also a key contributor for the Panthers down the stretch, finishing the night with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Jaquantae Harris and Eric Butler were crucial playmakers for ECSU. Harris scored 19 and Butler led the way with 21 points and six rebounds.
The Panthers were ahead, 67-56, with two minutes left in the contest and on top 69-59 with a minute left, but the Vikings were unable to close the deficit in the final minute, suffering the loss to conclude their season with a 13-16 overall record.
VUU advances to face the winner of Claflin and Winston-Salem State, who will square off tonight at 8 p.m.
No. 2 Fayetteville State 58, No. 7 Shaw 53
To conclude Day 2 of the CIAA Basketball Tournament, Fayetteville State and Shaw staged one of the most physical, hard-fought matches of the week so far.
Cress Worthy led FSU with an efficient 10 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists — with no turnovers — as the Broncos pulled off a close win over the Bears on Wednesday night in the quarterfinal round of action.
Kaleb Coleman tied for a game-high 13 points along with five boards, including a game-clinching corner 3-pointer with 20 seconds left in regulation that gave FSU a two-possession lead.
The Broncos trailed, 24-23, at halftime, and farther along in the second half, Shayne Siago helped Shaw go on a 10-0 run that put the Bears in the driver’s seat temporarily.
Back-to-back corner 3s by Khalil Ridges pushed Fayetteville State’s lead to 43-35 with a little less than 10 minutes left in the game. Shaw responded with a 6-0 scoring run that closed its deficit to 43-41 before a timeout at the 7:49 mark.
Coming out of the timeout, Jason Robinson scored off of a nicely executed spin move, followed by another bucket inside by Siago that capped off the Bears’ 10-0 run.
But late in the game, the defending 2022 champs showed why they are on a mission to notch their second straight tournament crown. The Broncos fought and clawed their way to victory, largely due to two late-game triples from Coleman.
The corner 3 at the 20-second mark was preceded by another make from long range on the left wing.
A missed jumper by Amir Waddell was rebounded by Coleman, sealing the quarterfinal win for FSU, who will advance to the semifinal round on Friday to face the winner of Virginia State and Lincoln, who will play this evening at 6 p.m.