Shaw tops Livingstone for CIAA title
Smith's 28 points lead Bears to second conference championship
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Raheem Smith scored 28 points including two free throws with 2.3 seconds left in the game to give Shaw a 72-69 win against Livingstone Saturday for its second CIAA men's championship in school history.
Victory wasn't assured until a desperation three-pointer by Livingstone misfired, setting off a celebration inside Time Warner Cable Arena. Smith was named Tournament MVP, and he joined the Bears' Tony Smith and Devon Mclendon on the All-Tournament team. They led the Bears (22-8 overall), the No. 2 Southern Division seed, to victory over a game Livingstone squad making its first CIAA finals appearance.
"I can't say enough about this team," Shaw Head Coach Cleo Hill, Jr. said. "I'm proud of them and we fought throughout this tournament."
Mclendon added 19 points and 14 rebounds and Tony Smith scored 11 points for the Bears, who shot 52 percent from the floor including 54 percent in the second half. Livingstone, who put Darius Cox and Greg Henry on the All-Tournament team, shot 46 percent for the game including 50 percent in the second half, to make the game close.
The win gave Shaw a sweep of the men's and women's tournaments, which is a first for the private Raleigh, N.C., school. Hill, Jr., claimed his first crown in only his third season as head coach after being an assistant coach on the 2001-02 team which won the CIAA Tournament with former NBA player Ronald "Flip" Murray, who was the NCAA Division II player of the year for the Bears at the time.
Livingstone (17-12 overall) put on a good showing in its first CIAA final. The No. 3 Southern Division seed, the Blue Bears came within a bucket of winning, but Shaw made the big baskets when it counted.
With Shaw holding a slim 55-52 lead, Raheem Smith drained a clutch three-pointer and David Jones made a layup to push the score to 60-52 with 3:38 to go. Livingstone managed to get within 70-69 with three seconds left on a three-pointer by Cox before Smith nailed the game-winning free throws.
Cox led four Livingstone double-figure scorers with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Austin added 11 points while Henry and Carl Boswell chipped in 10 points for the Blue Bears, who used their depth to push Shaw to the limit. Led by reserves Austin, Boswell and Trone Jackson (eight points), Livingstone outscored Shaw 36-6 in bench points, but Shaw scored 20 points off 15 Livingstone turnovers.
"It was a tough battle tonight," Livingstone Head Coach James Stinson, Jr. said. "We knew that it would be. We knew that we would have to execute to perfection. We rebounded better, they just made the big shots when it counted."
Entering the game, the Bears looked sharp in their two tournament wins, but both teams split during the regular season. The Blue Bears won 61-58 at home on Jan. 29 and the Bears took an 89-79 win at home Feb. 7.
In the opening moments, Mclendon scored the first basket on a three-pointer but Livingstone surged ahead 12-5 on Austin's jumper. Undeterred by Livingstone's sizzling start, Shaw responded with a 14-4 run to go ahead 19-16.
From that point, the game was nip-and-tuck with no lead bigger than six points. The Bears led 27-21 on Tony Smith's jumper but Livingstone rallied to close the gap to 31-30 on two Omar Ford-Bey free throws. The half ended with Shaw leading 32-30.
Mclendon led Shaw with 14 points and nine rebounds. Raheem Smith added 12 points for Shaw, who scored 13 points off 10 Livingstone turnovers.
Livingstone stayed in the first half because of its depth. Eight players scored for Livingstone, which outscored Shaw 21-0 in bench points. Reserves Boswell and Austin led Livingstone with seven points apiece for the Blue Bears, who shot 42 percent from the floor. The Blue Bears made 4-for-5 three-pointers for 80 percent while Shaw shot 5-for-13 behind the arc for 39 percent.
In the second half, Shaw opened a 49-42 lead at the midway point. Mclendon added two more layups to extend the lead to 53-44. Livingstone then went on a 8-2 run capped by two straight baskets for Henry to cut the margin to 55-52 but Shaw answered with four consecutive points for a 60-52 lead with under four minutes left.
Other players who made the All-Tournament team include Trent Bivens of Elizabeth City State, Eric Vann of Bowie State, CIAA player of the year Trevin Parks of Johnson C. Smith, Sidney Evans of Fayetteville State, and Charles Rhodes of Chowan. Fayetteville State won the John B. McLendon Sportsmanship Trophy at the tournament.