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Lady Bears Hold Off Fayetteville State To Claim Fourth Straight CIAA Title

CIAA Champs

March 1, 2014 - The Shaw University Lady Bears held on late in the game to clinch their fourth straight CIAA Tournament Championship on Saturday evening with a 73-70 win over Fayetteville State University.  The Lady Bears have not only won four straight tournament titles but have also won nine of the last 12 tournament championships.

Shaw advances to the NCAA DII Atlantic Regional with a 21-8 overall record while Fayetteville State's season comes to an end with a 21-7 mark.

CIAA Tournament Most Valuable Player Kamiya Burwell paced the Lady Bears with 18 points in the victory.  CIAA All-Tournament member Diamond Mitchell along with Ariel Hatcher tallied 14 points while Verdine Warner, also an All-CIAA Tournament honoree, notched 10 points for the Lady Bears.

Shaw head coach Jacques Curtis noted, "Whenever we play Fayetteville it's a game like this.  It's always a battle of the boards and it comes down to who can make their free throws.  The team did an excellent job of making stops when we needed them."

He continued, "I think the team had some pressure because we've never been in a championship game and lost.  These girls came out like stars today. When the lights get bright, the Shaw Lady Bears step up.  We had a little extra pressure because we had three seniors that had joined the program this year and we try not to let a senior leave without a ring."

For Mitchell, the only returning member from last year's championship squad, this year's championship had a different feel than the last.

"I feel it was harder this year," said Mitchell.  "We had a different team and had to do different things.  Last year we played a lot of inside ball.  This year we had to make sure the guards could shoot.  We started off really rough, but we came together at the end and we all wanted the same thing -- a CIAA championship ring.  I knew I wasn't going home without a ring.  It would have been over, I wouldn't have returned back to Shaw.  I would have been traumatized."

CIAA All-Tournament selection Deja Middleton led all players in the game with 19 points and 13 rebounds (three offensive, 10 defensive) in the loss for Fayetteville State while her counterpart, Amber Calvin also receiving All-Tournament honors, added 18 points in the effort.  De'Aira Smith followed with 10 points and her teammate, All-Tournament selection Akysia Resper chipped in seven points and five rebounds (one offensive, four defensive).

Eva Patterson-Heath, head coach of the Lady Broncos, stated, "We are disappointed that we came up short but I'm extremely proud of  these young ladies, they worked hard all season long and demanded excellence from their teammate and are great examples of what it means to be a team member.  We are disappointed but Shaw played a great game‚Ķunfortunately we just came up short."  

Deja Middleton got the ball rolling for Fayetteville State with a layup to start the game.  A made free throw by Middleton put the Lady Broncos ahead 3-0 at the 18:42 mark.  The Lady Bears knotted the game with a free throw and layup by Smith.

With the score tied 5-5 and 15:39 on the clock, Shaw used layups from Mitchell and Warner and Kaula Jacks to take an 11-5 advantage.  Shaquana Manning responded with a three-pointer for Fayetteville State but Hatcher was quick to answer with a trey of her own.  A layup by Smith for FSU gave the Lady Bears a 14-10 lead at the first media time out of the contest.

Resper welcomed the Lady Bears back from the quick break with a three-pointer for the Lady Broncos but Hatcher responded on the next possession with another three to give Shaw the 17-13 lead with 11:05 on the clock.

From that point, the Lady Bears went to work.  A three by All-Tournament honoree Micah Brooks contributed to a 10-4 run for Shaw and left Fayetteville State trailing 27-17 with 7:49 left to play. Fayetteville State scraped their way back to cut the deficit to four points after a layup by Bria Robinson with 4:26 on the clock.

A three-pointer by Burwell at the 1:06 mark gave the Lady Bears a 42-30 lead.  Middleton completed the three point play for Fayetteville State in response, but the Lady Bears enjoyed a 42-33 lead at halftime.

Middleton opened up the second half with a bucket and free throw for the Lady Broncos while Mitchell answered with a jumper on the next possession. Trailing 44-36 with 19:19 left in the game, Robertson's three-pointer for Fayetteville State contributed to a 7-0 run to make it a one point game (44-43).

The Lady Broncos simply would not go away.  Though Shaw remained in the lead, Fayetteville State matched them nearly basket for basket as the time ticked away.  The Lady Bears picked up the momentum with 13:56 left in the game.  With a 51-50 advantage, Shaw rattled off 10 unanswered points to pull away 61-50 with 9:29 left in the game.

"We started mixing up things just a little bit just to give them a different taste," said Curtis of the run.  "We started doing some traps and the girls did an excellent job.  The girls did an excellent job getting after them".

Down but not out, the Lady Broncos used a spread offensive attack to battle back and put the pressure on Shaw.  A 13-4 run capped by back-to-back three-pointers by Calvin left the Lady Bears clinging to a narrow 65-63 advantage with just six minutes remaining in the contest.

"We knew they would make a run on us sometime," said Curtis, "because no good team can you keep down all the time.  I'm just glad we were able to be CIAA Champions four times in a row.

Shaw led by no more than four points in the remainder of the game as each team fought furiously to gain control.  The Lady Broncos used a layup by Calvin followed by a made free throw to make it a one point (69-68) game with 1:34 left in the battle.

Burwell hit two free throws for Shaw with 18.7 seconds on the clock, giving the Lady Bears a 71-68 advantage.  Smith hit a quick layup out of a timeout but Burwell was fouled on the next possession and made good on both free throw attempts to secure the 73-70 win for Shaw.

The Lady Bears now wait to hear where they will travel for the first round of NCAA Division II regional play, and what seed they will hold.  The trip to the regionals will bring some changes, according to Curtis.

"We're probably going to have to change our defense a little bit because you usually have three or four people on the team that can shoot the long ball and stretches out our defense a little."