CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Johnson C. Smith established themselves as a force to be reckoned with on Thursday afternoon in Time Warner Cable Arena. The Golden Bulls knocked off the top seed from the Northern Division and defending CIAA Tournament Champion, Bowie State University, with an 81-77 win over the Bulldogs. They secured a spot in Friday’s semi-final game with the victory.
Johnson C. Smith, the fifth seed out of the South, will take on the winner of Thursday night’s quarterfinal contest between Winston-Salem State and Elizabeth City State. The Golden Bulls advance to the semi-finals with a 15-13 record.
The Golden Bulls assistant coach Mark Sherrill stated, “This was a great win for us today. We executed well and anticipate taking the momentum into the next round.”
Coming off the 2013 CIAA Tournament Championship and NCAA DII Atlantic Regional appearance, the Bulldogs year comes to a disappointing end with a 17-12 overall finish.
“Tough way to end the year. I thought the guys did a great job coming back in the second half, but I don’t feel like we did a good job defending at all,” said Darrell Brooks, Bowie State Head Coach. “I give Johnson C. Smith credit. They made tough shots when they had too. I’m still really proud of my guys. They did a good job fighting through adversity. I’m proud, but it’s just tough to end the year this way.”
Ray Gatling led all players in the contest with 23 points in the loss. Carlos Smith and Cameron Knox added 12 and 11 points respectively. LaMarquis Letchaw paced the Golden Bulls with 20 points followed by Emilio Parks with 19. Antwan Wilkerson added 12 points in the victory.
Parks welcomed the Bulldogs to Time Warner Cable Arena with a dunk within the first ten seconds of the game. A layup by Letchaw put the Golden Bulls ahead 4-0 at the 18:48 mark but a three-pointer by Gatling put Bowie State on the board, and cut the deficit to one point. Both teams battled to establish consistency and control but Johnson C. Smith led 11-7 at the first media time out of the game.
After Gatling’s free throw at the 15:28 mark, a jumper by Raston Brown for the Golden Bulls sparked an 8-0 run, handing Johnson C. Smith the 19-8 advantage with 13:33 left in the half. A three-pointer by Cameron Knox ended the scoring drought for the Bulldogs but Parks promptly responded with a bucket to build Johnson C. Smith’s lead to 21-14 at the 12:01 mark.
Bowie State worked to stay within striking distance and pulled within three points (21-18) using Brian Freeman’s jumper at the 10:45 mark. A layup by Letchaw with 7:12 left in the half gave the Golden Bulls a 28-18 advantage, their largest of the half up to that point.
Johnson C. Smith held on to a lead of eight points or more and extended their advantage to 13 points (41-28) with 1:01 on the clock after a layup by Parks. Bowie State trailed 41-32 heading into halftime.
Carlos Smith started the second half with a bucket for the Bulldogs. Joshua Linson responded with a three-pointer and Letchaw followed with a free throw to give the Golden Bulls a 45-34 advantage. Johnson C. Smith kept a tight grip on the advantage, leading 49-36 at the 17:30 mark.
Gatling hit a three-pointer for Bowie, Smith drained a free throw and Gatling netted a jumper with 15:50 remaining in the game to cut the deficit to seven points (49-42). David Golladay’s layup capped an 8-0 run for Bowie State and made the score 49-44, restoring faith in the Bulldog crowd.
The rally was short lived as Johnson C. Smith pushed their lead to 11 points (60-49) at the 9:12 mark. Down but not out, the Bulldogs scraped and clawed their way back to pull within five points (67-62) just after the five minute mark. A tip in by Trawn Rogers for the Bulldog with 4:13 on the clock forced the Golden Bulls to take a timeout.
Although Johnson C. Smith held on to the lead, the Bulldogs refused to go away quietly. With the score 75-68 and 1:45 left on the clock, Zafir Williams made a layup and Gatling drained two free throws, allowing Bowie State to pull within five points. Trailing 77-72, Knox used a three-pointer to move the Bulldogs within a mere two points of Johnson C. Smith (77-75). The teams exchanged baskets in the final minute of play, with the Golden Bulls earning the 81-77 victory.