Shaw reclaims perch with CIAA title
CHARLOTTE, NC – The Shaw Lady Bears virtually owned the last decade at the CIAA Tournament, winning five championships between 2003-2008.
Now they are working on the next one.
And it is something Johnson C. Smith knows all too well.
Tournament MVP Demaria Liles had 15 points, six rebounds and three steals as the Lady Bears captured the 2011 CIAA Championship after a 62-56 victory against the Lady Golden Bulls on Saturday evening at the Time Warner Cable Arena.
"This one is big," said Shaw coach Jacques Curtis, who has led the Lady Bears to each of their six titles in the last nine years. "And it's big because there was a lot of pressure on this team from the beginning, especially early in the season when we lost a couple of games. We knew we had to win this tournament to go on to the next level."
It is the fifth time the Lady Bears (21-11) have defeated Johnson C. Smith (23-4) in the CIAA Championship and the fourth time in the last nine years the Lady Golden Bulls, the 2009 CIAA champion, have finished as the tournament's runner-up.
"Although in defeat, we are extremely proud of our women's basketball team and what they've accomplished thus far," said Johnson C. Smith coach Vanessa Taylor, the CIAA Women's Coach of the Year. "We hope that it is enough for the NCAA to say to us that we can live to play another day."
The Lady Bears were down 43-37 with 10:05 remaining in the game after Johnson C. Smith's Terran Quattlebaum and Terrica Jones combined for 13 points in an 18-5 run. But Aslea Williams, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, scored seven consecutive points in a span of 1:40 to spark Shaw's decisive run of the game, a 12-0 spurt that handed the Lady Bears a 51-45 edge they would never relinquish.
"She struggled early, and was frustrated early and mentally, was out of the game," Curtis said of Williams. "But she can change a game, and she's probably the best power forward in the CIAA. She wanted the ball and she wanted to score."
Johnson C. Smith, the Southern Division champion, closed within three points twice in the final 15 seconds, but Shaw made five of six foul shots – converting two one-and-ones -- in the closing seconds to preserve the victory.
Allyssa Lane led Shaw, the No. 2 seed out of the South, with 16 points, hitting all seven of her shot attempts. Brittney Spencer, the CIAA leader in assists, added nine points, five assists and four rebounds while Kyria Buford chipped in eight points and six rebounds.
"I was just focused and wanted to get us a championship," said Lane. "All the people who were talking about us and doubting us -- we just wanted to prove them all wrong. We just wanted to go out there and show everybody that we were the best team."
Johnson C. Smith's LaQwesha Gamble led the Golden Bulls with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Quattlebaum added 13 points and three steals while Racquel Davis had eight points and 10 rebounds.
By the midway point of the first half, it looked like Shaw was going to win the championship in a runaway. The Lady Bears, after two three-point plays from Liles, ripped off a 14-2 run to build a 24-11 run with 6:58 remaining in the half.
But that's when the Lady Bears went ice cold.
With Johnson C. Smith picking up its defensive intensity, particularly in the backcourt, the Lady Golden Bulls got back into the game before the half by methodically chipping away at the deficit. Gamble scored six points, coming from post-up moves on the low block, to fuel a 12-1 spurt to close the half, bringing Johnson C. Smith within two, 27-25, by the break.
"We knew Johnson C. Smith was going to make a run," Curtis said.
Gamble, an All-CIAA selection and the Golden Bulls' leading scorer and rebounder, nearly had a double-double by the break with eight points and nine rebounds and practically neutralized Shaw's size advantage by herself.
Meanwhile, Shaw, which started the game hitting its first four shots in less than 4 minutes, made only seven of its last 29 field-goal attempts in the first half, and did not have a field goal in the final 6:31 of the opening period.
That enabled the Golden Bulls, despite shooting just 25 percent from the field in the first half, to get back into the game and set up the second period.
"Our young women adjusted their intensity and their execution," said Taylor. "We started out a little bit flat today. So we had to make some mental adjustments more than anything, making sure that we were assured in our game plan. After we were able to do that, we made a solid run and were able to close the gap."
In the end, though, it was another runner-up finish to the Lady Bears, who can now focus on the NCAA playoffs. Of course, according to Curtis, that's been their primary focus all along.
"Shaw's won CIAA championships," said Curtis. "We're hoping to do a little something different."
Buford and Williams joined Liles on the All-Tournament team. Johnson C. Smith was represented by Quattlebaum and Gamble.
Rounding out the All-Tournament team was: Rhon'Neisha Taylor (Virginia State), Allison Sikes, (St. Augustine's), Umeka Benson (St. Augustine's) Ransheda Jennings (Chowan) and Vontisha Woods (Winston-Salem State).