Birmingham, Ala.—The Claflin University men's basketball team defeated Clark Atlanta University, 69-61, to capture the 2018 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Title. With the win, the Panthers finish the season 25-6, the most wins since the 2008-09 season when the team went 25-4. The win also gives the Panthers the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Regionals scheduled for March 10-13.
This is the first SIAC men's basketball tournament title for Claflin.
Claflin advanced to the championship game by defeating Morehouse in the semi-finals, 77-69.
Head Coach Ricky Jackson was named the tournament Most Outstanding Coach. Jaleel Charles was named the Tournament Most Valuable Player.
Charles scored 18 points for the Panthers while adding 10 rebounds which lifted Claflin over defending champion Clark Atlanta, in the eight point victory.
“From the jump, we just wanted to win. We said in the locker room, it doesn’t matter what it takes, the next man, me, Triston (Thompson), Benjamin “Tre” Williams, we were going to get it done and everybody stuck by their game plan,” Charles said.
The Claflin Panthers (25-6) secured their championship title after finishing third place in the eastern division during regular season.
Clark Atlanta Panthers struggled shooting in the paint and from behind the arc as Claflin kept them shooting under 35 percent in both categories. Claflin led the entire game as Clark Atlanta encountered various fouling troubles throughout the game.
“I thought it was a great game. I thought they thoroughly outhustled and outworked us. When you shoot 35 percent from the field, 15 percent from the 3-point line, and 64 percent from the free-throw line, you won’t beat anybody. Let’s just call a spade a spade,” said head men’s basketball coach, Darrell Walker.
Clark Atlanta (24-5) fell 2-1 within the tournament having split with Claflin in the regular season.
“Our rebounding we kind of cleaned up, but we have to get our basketball IQ better. I’ve been saying it for the past four to five weeks,” emphasized Walker.
Akil Douglas led the CAU scoring with 14 points. Jalen Mitchell and Damien Davis added 12.
2018 Men’s Basketball All-Tournament Team
MVP: Jaleel Charles (Claflin)
Brandon Morris (Benedict)
Triston Thompson (Claflin)
Akil Douglas (Clark Atlanta)
Cairo Brown (Benedict)