BALTIMORE, MD (February 24, 2023) – Every point and possession counted in this game as Samage Teel hit a clutch pull-up jumper with 11 seconds remaining to give Winston-Salem State the 45-44 win over the top seed and Northern Division champion Virginia Union in the 2023 CIAA Men’s Semifinals at CFG Bank Arena Friday.
On the following possession, the Panthers’ Robert Osborne (2023 CIAA Player of the Year) whipped a pass to the corner to an open Devon Sims, but Sims was unable to connect, and time ran out as players from both teams scrambled for the loose ball.
The win completed a comeback for the Rams (20-8 overall), who beat Claflin less than 18 hours ago in the quarterfinals. Virginia Union led 21-16 at halftime and was ahead by nine early in the second half. The Rams kept chipping away until they moved ahead 43-41 on Alston’s two free throws. The Panthers (23-7 overall) regained the lead 44-43 on Osborne’s turnaround jumper and Raemaad Wright’s free throw, setting up Teel’s game-winning basket in the final moments.
Teel, the Food Lion Game MVP, recorded team-high totals of 13 points and seven points. Teel and the Rams showed a lot of grit on the court and as a result, Winston-Salem State has clinched its spot in the conference title game.
Jaylen Alston added nine points and Nathan Springs came off the bench to contribute eight points and six rebounds for the Rams, who won despite committing 22 turnovers which led to 17 VUU points. The Rams countered with their reserve unit, outscoring the Panthers 29-6 in bench points, led by Teel and Springs.
Osborne, as he has done all year, led the Panthers in scoring. He tallied 18 points and Tahj Harding added 17 points for VUU. The duo scored all but nine of the Panthers’ points and Wright pulled down 12 rebounds.
Both teams were frigid from the floor. The Rams shot 34.9 percent and the Panthers made 32.7 percent of their shots. The Rams controlled the boards, however, as they won the rebounding battle 35-28.
The win snapped the Rams’ four-game losing streak to the Panthers, including last year’s semifinal matchup in the CIAA Tournament. The Panthers advanced to the finals where they lost to Fayetteville State. This time, the Rams ousted the Panthers in the semifinals.
The storied Rams program will be gunning for its 13th conference tournament title, and first since 2020. They will play either Lincoln (PA) or Fayetteville State on Saturday at 1 p.m. in CFG Bank Arena.
Despite being eliminated in the conference tournament, the Panthers’ season may not be over. They are currently ranked fourth in the Atlantic Region and have a shot at making the NCAA Division II Tournament.