Shaw gets season sweep of St. Augustines at CIAA Tournament
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Shaw University defeated cross-town rival Saint Augustine’s College for the third time this season in an 80-73 win Wednesday (Feb. 29) in the CIAA Tournament women’s quarterfinals at Time Warner Cable Arena. This victory was much tougher than the previous two during the regular season.
Alsea Williams led a balanced scoring attack with 19 points and Kyrie Buford added 15 points and 14 rebounds for the Lady Bears, who play Bowie State on Friday at 1 p.m. The top seed in the Southern Division, the Lady Bears are shooting for their seven CIAA crown in 10 years. They are the defending CIAA champions.
“We have had that same balance all year,” Shaw head coach Jacques Curtis said. “Someone always steps up. It is a team by committee. Someone will lead us in points and rebounds.”
The Lady Bears (21-6 overall) have played like champs this season, posting a league-best 15-1 mark and winning the Southern Division with 9-1 mark. They were especially hard on the Lady Falcons, beating them by an average of 42.5 points in two runaway wins.
The Lady Bears appear headed toward another rout in the third meeting. They built a 47-29 halftime lead on 55 percent shooting, and the only question left was how much the Lady Bears would win by.
The Lady Falcons (14-14) answered that question with a relentless second half effort, their best against their nemesis this season. The run started after a St. Aug player and a Shaw player were ejected simultaneously early in the second half.
The ejections fired up the Lady Falcons, who trailed 52-33. They used a 32-14 run to slowly chip away at the deficit. The run was capped by Ebony Spencer’s layup, which sliced the Lady Bears’ lead to 66-65 with 5:31 left.
“We wanted to come out in the second half with a sense of urgency,” St. Aug head coach Rachel Bullard said. “I told them,’ This is it! We’ve got to fight and we’ve got to play every single second of every single minute.”’
The Lady Falcons clearly had the momentum in the second half, but they missed two chances to either take the lead or tie. That was the closest they would get. Crystal Harris was key down the stretch for the Lady Bears, scoring six straight points including a critical three-point play which pushed their lead to 72-65 with 3:08 to play.
The Lady Falcons’ Denika Harden, who made four three-pointers all year, canned her third of the game to close the gap to 72-68, but Buford responded with a long three for a 75-68 lead. Harris scored on a follow shot and hit another free throw for a nine-point Lady Bears’ lead with 17 seconds to go.
Harris, a sophomore center, finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and four steals off the bench. She had nine points and eight rebounds in the second half to help stop the Lady Falcons’ rally. Brittney Ransom added 10 points off the bench.
The Lady Falcons’ bench provided a spark as well. Harden scored a career-high 11 points and Cuffee inspired her teammates with her hustle and clever passing. It was her steal that led to Spencer’s layup which trimmed their deficit to one late in the game.
CIAA player of the year Keyona Bryant ended her tremendous career on a high note. She amassed a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds including 10 points in the second half when the Lady Falcons made their comeback.
Umeka Benson finished with 15 points and Victoria Davis added 12 points and seven rebounds as four players scored in double figures for the Lady Falcons, who outscored the Lady Bears 44-33.
“Today was tough,” Bullard said. “We just fought and I am absolutely proud of our kids.”
Last year, the Lady Bears routed the Lady Falcons in the tournament. On Wednesday, the Lady Falcons were unwilling to go down easy, but the Lady Bears showed their poise down the stretch.
“I am proud of my girls for stepping up, “Curtis said. “We came here to win.”