CHARLOTTE — Southeast Raleigh will have one CIAA champion returning home from Charlotte today. The Shaw women won their seventh conference championship in nine years under coach Jacques Curtis after defeating Johnson C. Smith Saturday, 72-66.
The women's victory should help soothe some hurt feelings left from the men's semifinal loss to Winston-Salem State.
The Bears and Golden Bulls know each other quite well in the finals. The teams have met five times since 2003 and four of the last seven seasons. Shaw has won them all.
"At this point, there are no secrets between us," Shaw coach Jacques Curtis said. "We knew it would be a hard fought game with them because they are a well-coached team, and it's tough playing them in Charlotte."
Shaw's nine total championships ties it with former CIAA member Norfolk State. Curtis has already laid down the gauntlet for next year.
"We're gonna win next year," he said. "I'm putting it out there now, we're gonna win. We're trying to separate ourselves from everyone else."
Instead of trying to outscore J.C. Smith from the perimeter, Shaw used its height and size to muscle out the Golden Bulls in the paint 44 points to 32. That helped the Bears to a 51.7 percent shooting performance, while their defense stifled J.C. Smith to just under 30 percent, including an intimidating eight blocks.
"This was a game of runs, and we have several good runs, but the major difference was our shooting in the first half," J.C. Smith coach Vanessa Taylor said. "That really hurt us."
With J.C. Smith leading 15-13 in the first half, Shaw went on one of its customary runs, outscoring the Golden Bulls 15-0 to take a 28-15 lead.
The Bears got production during that run from the senior leadership of Kyria Buford (11 points), Aslea Williams (17 points) and Crystal Harris (10 points). Shaw led 36-25 at halftime.
Shaw held its double-digit lead until the Golden Bulls began to make a move early in the second half behind their own senior leader LaQwesha Gamble (23 points, 13 rebounds.) Gamble and teammate LaKendra Wilkerson helped trim Shaw's lead to three with 9 minutes 45 seconds left. J.C. Smith then had three straight possessions to either tie the game or take the lead, but turned the ball over each time. Shaw took advantage to build its lead back to nine points and held on for the win.
Senior guard Brittney Spencer said Shaw is now synonymous with winning.
"Call it confident, cocky or whatever, but we're a winning team," she said. "We expect nothing less as a team."