By Lut Williams
CHARLOTTE, N. C. – Virginia State ran out to a 42-25 halftime lead, led by as much as 31 points in the second half and then survived a frantic comeback attempt by Shaw to win the men’s CIAA Basketball Tournament Championship 77-66 here Saturday at the Spectrum Center.
Shaw clawed its way back in, cutting a 56-25 deficit at the 16-minute mark to single digits in the final four minutes but could never quite seriously threaten the Trojans (27-4), the top seed from the league’s North Division. The closest the Bears (17-13), the top seed from the South Division, could get was at 68-60 with just over three minutes left.
The pattern that has boded well for the Trojans – balanced scoring – was again in evidence in the championship game as they had five players reach double-figures in scoring. All-CIAA forward Jahmere Howze, who had 17 points in the first half, finished with game-highs of 28 points and 12 rebounds. Jalen Jackson added 16 points including 12 on four 3-pointers. C. J. Wiggins and Andrew Corum each had 11 points. Howze was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
“He’s made a big diffence,” VSU head coach Lonne Blow Jr. said of Howze, a 6-8 forward who transferred in this year from California of Pennsylvania. “He’s given us a post presence and does some things that we’ve not had at that position. His versatility has really helped us.” Howze finished the tournament with 55 points and 23 rebounds in three games.
The championship is Blow’s second title in six years at VSU. He also won a championship while the head coach at conference member Saint Augustine’s.
Amir Hinton, Shaw’s junior CIAA scoring leader and league player of the year, did all he could to bring the Bears back. He had 17 first-half points and five steals, four coming in a stretch where he pilfered four passes and finished with monster dunks. He added another 17 in the second half to finish with a game-high 34 points. DaVaughn Kelsie had 17 points and Geremy Taylor 12.
VSU (27-4), who has now won 19 of 20 CIAA games this year, will advance to the NCAA Div. II Atlantic Region playoffs. The Trojans were ranked third in the region entering the tournament. The top eight teams from the region play for the regional title with the tournament selection show slated for March 10. Men’s play should begin on Thursday, March 14.
2019 CIAA Men's All-Tournament Team
Alex Owens, Shaw
Amir Hinton, Shaw
Jalen Jackson, Virginia State
Jahmere Howze, Virginia State
Cyonte Melvin, Virginia State
Jalen Gaddy, Saint Augustine's
Joseph Allen, Elizabeth City State
Roger Ray, Livingstone
Cameron Hayes, Bowie State
Roddric Ross, Johnson C. Smith
CIAA Men's Tournament Most Valuable Player - Jahmere Howze, Virginia State