By Lut Williams
Editor - Black College Sports Page
Virginia Union’s CIAA Player of the Year, 5-6 sophomore guard Shareka McNeil, scored 30 first-half points staking the Lady Panthers to a 40-13 halftime lead and sparking a 75-41 rout of South Division top seed Fayetteville State in the championship game of the Women’s CIAA Basketball Tournament in Charlotte Saturday afternoon.
McNeill, who scored a tournament record-tying 59 points in the quarterfinals and added 38 points in a semifinal win, needed 27 points in the championship game to break the tournament total scoring record of 123 points held by Jacqueline Pinnix of North Carolina Central. McNeill did it before halftime.
But the game didn’t start that way. FSU had an 8-7 lead after one period but was outscored 33-5 in the second quarter as McNeil went off for 23 points.
The biggest question in the second half may have been whether the Lady Broncos would outscore McNeill. The VUU dynamo, named the tournament's MVP, finished with 38 points and averaged a tournament-record 45.0 points per game over her three contests. She finished the title game hitting 11 of 24 shots from the field, 6 of 12 on 3-pointers and 9 of 10 free throws.
Forward Jasmine Carter added 18 points and a game-high 14 rebounds for the Lady Panthers. FSU (21-8) was led by Shantel Bennett’s 11 points, the only Lady Bronco to score in double-digits.
It is the third tournament title and second straight for the Lady Panthers (27-2) in the four years since head coach Ann Marie Gilbert took over the program before the 2015-16 season. VUU, ranked first in the NCAA Div. II Atlantic Region, will open NCAA national championship play in the region on Friday, March 15. VUU has hosted the Atlantic Regional two of the last three years and has put in a bid to host again this year.
The 64-team NCAA Div. II Championship field will be unveiled on March 10 with play to begin on March 15.
WORTH NOTING: McNeill, who led the CIAA in scoring this season (23.1 ppg.), finished the tournament averaging 45.0 points per game, shooting 42 of 76 (.552) from the field, 24 of 39 (.615) from 3-point range and 26 of 29 (.896) from the free throw line.
2019 CIAA Women's All-Tournament Team
Shareka McNeill, Virginia Union
Rejoice Spivey, Viriginia Union
Jasmine Carter, Virginia Union
Katisha Hyman, Fayetteville State
Shantel Bennet, Fayetteville State
Yakima Clifton, Fayetteville State
Kwanza Murray, Lincoln (PA)
Asia Deal, Elizabeth City State
Jalyn Brown, Elizabeth City State
Kyaja Williams, Bowie State
CIAA Women's Tournament Most Valuable Player - Shareka McNeill, Virginia Union