Charlotte, NC – Bowie State won the battle of attrition against Fayetteville State and captured a CIAA Men’s Basketball Championship because of it.
Tournament MVP Ahmaad Wilson scored 20 points as the Bulldogs outlasted the Broncos 62-54 at the Spectrum Center on Saturday, February 25. The conference crown was their first since 2013 and the third overall for the Bulldogs, who gained the automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Tournament that goes with winning the championship.
The Bulldogs (16-14 overall), seeded fourth in the Northern Division, won the title by exhibiting the toughness that has marked the program since Darrell Brooks became head coach. They won four games in four days in the tournament including victories over Northern Division top seed Virginia Union and Southern Division No. 2 seed Livingstone.
“It was one of those games where you had to be gritty,” said Brooks, who captured his second CIAA championship at Bowie State. “It wasn’t pretty. Both teams struggled offensively due to good defense. We just stuck with it.”
Their opponent on Saturday was equally tough as the Broncos (13-16), seeded fourth in the Southern Division, also played their fourth game in four days. The low-scoring contest featured seven lead changes and three ties but the Bulldogs made key plays in the second half that turned the game in their favor.
The biggest plays occurred early in the second half with the Bulldogs nursing a 27-26 lead. After two free throws by Enuoma Ebinum, the Bulldogs converted two steals off inbound passes into an Omari George layup and a Wilson three-pointer to extend the margin to 34-26. It was the cushion they needed to stay ahead even though the Broncos pulled within three points twice.
But after the score was 52-49 on Josh Bryant’s layup, standout point guard Josh Dawson, who averaged 23.3 points the previous three games, was whistled for his fifth foul at the 2:12 mark. With the Broncos floorleader and catalyst watching from the bench, the Bulldogs finished with a 10-5 run to put the game away.
“Thank God!,” said Wilson afterward when asked about Dawson fouling out the game.
Dawson, guarded tightly by a stout Bulldogs defense, scored nine points but added four assists and five rebounds.
“We wanted to keep a fresh body on him,” Wilson said. “He scored 28 the previous night. We didn’t want him to go off.”
Both George and Ebinum added 11 points each for the Bulldogs with Ebinum collecting three blocks including a couple down the stretch to ward off a late Broncos run. Michael Briscoe contributed nine points, eight rebounds and two steals for the Bulldogs, who shot 39.3 percent but forced 18 points off 16 Bronco turnovers. George and Dayshawn Wells combined for six of the Bulldogs’ 10 steals.
Bryant produced 14 points and nine rebounds for the Broncos, who shot 37.7 percent. Michael Tyson added 10 points and eight rebounds while William Tibbs and Jyonte Raynor scored eight points apiece for the Broncos, who outrebounded the Bulldogs 40-33.
Playing four consecutive days seemed to catch up with both teams early on. Neither team provided much fireworks offensively as the Bulldogs shot 32.1 percent and the Broncos 24.1 percent. The point total was the second-lowest for the Broncos and the fourth-lowest for the Bulldogs this season.
The Bulldogs managed to generate some offense midway in the half. A three-point play by George capped a 10-4 run which gave the Bulldogs an 18-12 lead with 4:08 left. The Broncos came back with an 8-3 run capped by two Dawson free throws to trim the margin to 21-20 at halftime.
Wilson scored six points and George added five points and three steals while Briscoe snatched six rebounds for the Bulldogs, who forced nine Bronco turnovers for nine points. Bryant scored seven points and corralled six rebounds and Tibbs chipped in six points for the Broncos, who outrebounded the Bulldogs 24-18.
Though the Bulldogs claimed the championship, the Broncos felt a sense of accomplishment after defying the odds and reaching the title game. They knocked off Southern Division top seed Shaw and No. 2 Northern Division seed Virginia State, the defending champion, on the way to the finals.
“We proved a lot of people wrong,” Tyson said. “Nobody expected us to make it this far.”
Both teams displayed fortitude in the tournament, but the Bulldogs finished strong in the closing minutes.
“It was a hard-fought ballgame,” Broncos Head Coach Ken Spencer said. “We fought to the end, but they played better than us and deserved to win.”
Wilson was one of 10 players selected to the CIAA All-Tournament team. The others are Briscoe of Bowie State, Dawson, Tyson and Bryant of Fayetteville State, David Duncan of Livingstone, Quincy January of Saint Augustine’s, Elijah Moore and Richard Granberry of Virginia State and Robert Davis of Johnson C. Smith.