CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Shaw University Lady Bears clinched a spot in the CIAA Championship game with a 60-59 win over #10 Virginia State University Friday afternoon in Time Warner Cable Arena. With Virginia State trailing by three, Cana Marriott launched a long jumper as time expired, but it was ruled a two-point basket, sending the Lady Bears to their ninth conference final in 12 years.
The Lady Bears will compete for their fourth straight CIAA Championship and take on Fayetteville State University on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Shaw entered the contest as the number two seed out of the Southern Division while Virginia State was the top seed out of the North. The Lady Trojans suffered just two losses on the season, both to Shaw, and end the year with a 25-2 overall record. Thursday’s contest came down to the wire and featured five ties and four lead changes.
Jacques Curtis, head coach of the Lady Bears stated, “It was a fans’ game. We had a game similar to this during the regular season…[Virginia State] is a very good team. We got off to a good start and we felt like we needed to have a good start today in order to win…We just held on until the end…Tomorrow is going to be another quality game.”
“We knew it was going to be a hard fought game all the way until the end. We knew it was going to be a battle. We knew both teams were going to make runs and it was going to come down to who could make defensive stops late in the game,” Lady Trojans’ head coach, James Hill Jr. noted.
Diamond Mitchell paced the Lady Bears with 12 points in the win. Micah Brooks and Verdine Warner each notched 11 points apiece while Ariel Hatcher chipped in 10 of her own. Warner also hauled in a game-high 10 rebounds (three offensive, seven defensive). Pryncess Tate-Dublin led all players in the game with 21 points in the loss for Virginia State. Alexandria Massado added 11 points in the effort.
Bryann Guyton opened the contest with a jumper for the Lady Bears. Tate-Dublin answered with a jumper of her own for Virginia State on the next possession. A bucket by Brooks for Shaw sparked a 6-0 run and handed the Lady Bears an 8-2 lead with 16:53 on the clock. Lamesha Deal’s layup on the next possession ended a five minute scoring drought for the Lady Trojans.
Leading 8-4, a 5-0 run by Shaw quickly put the Lady Bears ahead 13-4 midway through the first half. The Lady Trojans managed to hold Shaw scoreless for the next two minutes as they clawed their way back to pull within three points (13-10) with 7:32 left to play.
A layup by Warner followed by back-to-back buckets by Mitchell returned the momentum to Shaw and left Virginia State with a nine point deficit. Down 21-15, the Lady Trojans outscored the Lady Bears 6-2 over the next three minutes to make it a two point game (23-21) at the 1:40 mark.
Virginia State was unable to hold onto the momentum and the Lady Bears closed out the half leading 28-23 after three made free-throws by Brooks and a layup by Henry. Tate-Dublin’s bucket for Virginia State at the start of the second half put the Lady Trojans within three points (28-25).
Both teams exchanged baskets until Kamiya Burwell’s three-pointer with 14:49 on the clock gave Shaw a six point (37-31) advantage. Jessica Lyons answered with a basket and Tate-Dublin followed with a layup for the Lady Trojans, but Ariel Hatcher nailed a deep three at the 10:34 mark allowing Shaw to pull away 44-37. The Lady Trojans resiliently battled back to change the momentum of the game just under the midway point of the second half. Trailing 46-39, Virginia State rattled off nine unanswered points capped by a Tate-Dublin three to take their first lead of the game (48-46) with 6:58 left in the contest.
The score was tied four times in the final six minutes of play and neither team led by more than three points. With the score tied 57-57 and 40.7 seconds on the clock, Warner sank two free-throws for a 59-57 lead for Shaw. The Lady Bears capitalized on another free-throw opportunity as Warner made good on the attempt to give Shaw a 60-57 lead with 17 seconds left in the game. Marriott hit the jumper right at the buzzer and just in front of the three point arc, allowing the Lady Bears to take the 60-59 win and advance to the CIAA Championship.
The Lady Bears return to the championship for the ninth time in the last 12 years, and are undefeated in finals in the school’s history. Shaw and Fayetteville State met twice this season, with each team claiming a victory. The two were tied in the southern division at the end of the regular season, but a coin flip gave FSU the southern division title.