A rubber match in the CIAA championship Saturday night will settle the season series between Shaw and Fayetteville State.
Fayetteville State took the first game on Friday against Virginia Union 71-57 while Shaw came from behind in the final 12 minutes to top Elizabeth City State 76-61.
After splitting the season series with the visitors winning one apiece, the top two seeds in the tournament will meet at 5 p.m. Saturday for the title.
“They got size and we have size,” Shaw coach Jacques Curtis said. “It’s bigs going against bigs where some other teams don’t have the size we have, so we can really pound them on the glass, and they have really good guard play. We know that’s going to be a battle with them tomorrow.”
Fayetteville State won the first meeting 66-64 on Jan. 30 while Shaw took the second meeting 75-65 on Feb. 20.
Shaw is back in the title game for the third consecutive year after having won the past two. The Bears are also the reigning Division II national champions, but Curtis made it clear in his post-game remarks that this team is markedly different from last season with only two returning players.
Down 51-46 with 12:29 left in Friday’s game, Shaw held the Vikings to just 10 points the rest of the game.
“We got that tendency to buckle down when we need to,” Curtis said. “We can make that one run at the end of the game. We were battle tested.”
Four Bears were in double figures and three finished with double-doubles. Crystal Wilson (12 points), Taylor Dalrymple (15 points) and Crystal Harris (17 points) each had 10 rebounds.
In Friday’s first game, Fayetteville State came together in the second half to defeat Virginia Union, which shot just 29.7 percent from the field after the break.
The victorious Broncos were led by Tierra Coleman and center Shuanda Ashford. Coleman finished a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor for 16 points and 12 rebounds. She also had a game-high six offensive rebounds to help Fayetteville State to its 19 second-chance points. Ashford also had a double-double, scoring a game-high 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds despite getting an elbow stinger during the game.
“(Ashford) was off just a little bit but her teammate Tierra Coleman stepped up,” Fayetteville State coach Eva Patterson-Heath said. “She was 100 percent from the floor and from the free-throw line. That’s a testament to her desire to play tomorrow.”