Shaw University...The School of Champions
March 8, 2011 - It happens every year at the CIAA Basketball Tournament. After the men's final is over, both the men's champion and the women's get to cut the net down. Normally that means two different fan bases - each clustered under the bucket as their team, person-by-person, snips a bit of the net.
What was a Shaw fan to do?
Saturday night, both the Shaw men and Shaw women took home CIAA crowns, and the two teams ascended the ladders at the same time to cut down the nets.
The championships are just two of five won in the last calendar year. Last spring, the men's tennis team brought home their sixth straight CIAA championship while the women pulled off the repeat. In the fall, the football team defeated Virginia State 14-7 to bring home the CIAA trophy.
The two championships on Saturday came from very different places in school history, but the combination of the two was a first.
The Lady Bears virtually owned the last decade at the CIAA Tournament, winning five championships between 2003-2008. To get their sixth, they would have to down Johnson C. Smith - who had defeated Shaw twice during the regular season.
Tournament MVP Demaria Liles had 15 points, six rebounds and three steals as the Lady Bears captured the Championship after a 62-56 victory over the Lady Golden Bulls.
"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) 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.
The Lady Bears were down 43-37 with 10:05 remaining in the game, but Aslea Williams, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, scored seven straight 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.
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."
Just three hours after the women's team were handed their trophy, the men repeated the process. On the way, they had to defeat a persistent Livingstone team - a team that had split with the Bears during the regular season.
Raheem Smith scored 28 points including two free throws with 2.3 seconds left in the game to give Shaw the 72-69 win over the Blue Bears for the second CIAA men's championship in school history.
Victory wasn't assured until a desperation three-pointer by Livingstone misfired, setting off a celebration inside Time Warner Cable Arena. Smith was named Tournament MVP, and he joined the Bears' Tony Smith and Devon Mclendon on the All-Tournament team. They led the Bears (22-8 overall), the No. 2 Southern Division seed, to victory over a game Livingstone squad making its first CIAA finals appearance.
"I can't say enough about this team," Shaw Head Coach Cleo Hill, Jr. said. "I'm proud of them and we fought throughout this tournament."
Mclendon added 19 points and 14 rebounds and Tony Smith scored 11 points for the Bears, who shot 52 percent from the floor including 54 percent in the second half. Livingstone, who put Darius Cox and Greg Henry on the All-Tournament team, shot 46 percent for the game including 50 percent in the second half, to make the game close.
Now both teams turn their attention to the NCAA tournament. The men open play Saturday, March 12 at 8:30 p.m. against a familiar foe - Winston-Salem State. The two teams split their regular season series. The Bears, the number four seed in the Atlantic Region, travel to West Liberty, WV for their opening round. WSSU is the fifth seed in the region.
The women, who are the eighth seed in the region, travel to Edinboro, PA, where they will take on the top seeded Edinboro Fighting Scots, Friday, March 11 at 6:00 p.m. Links to Live Stats, audio and video (where applicable) can be found at www.shawbears.com.
"Shaw's won CIAA championships," said Curtis. "We're hoping to do a little something different."
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