by Carl Lut Williams
Black College Sports Page
Northern Division top seed Virginia State completed a run through the CIAA men’s tournament in Charlotte with an 89-79 win over upstart two-time defending champion Livingstone in the championship game Saturday night in Charlotte.
Trailing 36-35 at the break, the Trojans (23-5) opened the second half on a 12-0 run, ten by tournament MVP Kevin Williams, whose layup with 15:04 left put them up 47-38.
Senior Javon Moore, who had 16 of his game-high 30 points after halftime, and Williams, who had 19 after the break, did the bulk of the scoring to keep Livingstone from seriously cutting into the lead. The closest the Blue Bears came was 68-63 on two Darryl Traynham free throws with 5:19 to play.
“Defense, defense, defense, defense,” said Williams of the halftime talk that spurred VSU’s second half. “In the locker room all we talked about was defense. We didn’t say nothing about offense.”
“It all boils down to our defense,” said victorious head coach Lonnie Blow Jr., who won the title in his third year at VSU. “We take pride in our defense and we think we can play defense with the best of them. That’s what we hang our head on every day in practice and it shows in the game. When we need to get timely stops on the defensive end, we’re able to do that.”
The talk paid off as VSU, after allowing Livingstone to shoot 52.4% (11 of 21) in the first half, held the Blue Bears to 41.2% shooting (14 of 24) in the second stanza, just 2 of 10 from behind the arc after they shot 4 of 5 in the first half.
In getting the win, the Trojans took their first CIAA Tournament title since winning back-to-back titles in 1988 and 1989. The win also prevented Livingstone (15-17), a fourth seed from the Southern Division playing its fourth game in four days, from a three-peat in the popular tournament. Livingstone won its first-ever titles in 2014 and 2015.
“It’s definitely huge. It’s been so long since Virginia State won a championship. We wanted to change that,” said Blow, who also won a CIAA tourney title in 2010 while head coach at Saint Augustine’s. He is the first coach in league history to win tournament titles at two different schools in the conference.
Moore led the Trojans with 30 points and nine rebounds. He was an efficient 7 of 9 from the floor, made 3 of 5 from long range and was 13 of 19 from the line. The high-flying Williams, a 5-11 junior guard, added 24 points.
Williams, who had 57 points (19.0 ppg.) in three VSU tourney wins, earned the MVP honor. His tip-in at the halftime buzzer left VSU trailing 36-35. Moore led VSU with 14 first-half points.
Traynham, whose late-give heroics led Livingstone to close wins over South Division top seed Johnson C. Smith in the quarterfinals and North second-seed Virginia Union in the semis, topped the Blue Bears with 29 points. Ty Newman, last year’s tournament most valuable player, added 21. Both Newman and Traynham were named to the all-tournament team.
Prior to the tournament, VSU was the only CIAA team in the NCAA Div. II Atlantic Region top ten, seeded seventh. The Trojans are likely the only CIAA team to advance to the national playoffs. The 64-team NCAA Div. II selection show is next Sunday, March 6 at 10 p.m.
MEN’S ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM
Ray Anderson, Virginia Union
Ahmaad Wilson, Bowie State
Darryl Traynham, Livingstone
Ty Newman, Livingstone
Eric Dubose, Livingstone
Kevin Williams, Virginia State
Javon Moore, Virginia State
Elijah Moore, Virginia State
Anthony Gaskins, Saint Augustine’s
Joshua Dawson, Fayetteville State’
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Kevin Williams, Virginia State
Johnson C. Smith