The clock finally struck midnight on the Cinderella post season for the Bowie State Lady Bulldogs in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division II women’s basketball tournament.

After pulling the biggest upset in this year’s tournament Bowie State advanced to the championship game of the Atlantic Regional but fell short losing to Indiana (PA) University 75-60.  It was the second consecutive post season tournament this year where they lost in the finals.

Bowie St. senior guard Kyah Proctor helped lead the Lady Bulldogs to the CIAA Finals and the NCAA Division II Sweet 16 as her college career came to an end. (Courtesy BSU Athletics)

Bowie St. ran out of gas during the CIAA finals against Virginia Union in Charlotte.  The jumpers that fell during the first three days of their run in the Queen City were short and down the stretch and the 50/50 effort plays went the way of the Lady Panthers late in the fourth quarter.  The Lady Bulldogs made just 20 of 69 shots missing 11 of 13 three-point attempts.

Meanwhile, Virginia Union played with a championship mettle that comes from success in the moment late. They answered a 10-0 run from Bowie St. near the end of the third quarter which closed the gap from 22 to 12 points.  The Lady Panthers countered with a 7-2 run of their own and were able to push the lead back to 19 and cruise to their second CIAA championship in three years. While disappointed in losing there was a quiet confidence that gave them more than just cautious optimism as they ventured south for the NCAA’s big show.

In their first-round game of the national tournament the Lady Bulldogs took advantage of the chance to exact revenge on the team who beat them in the CIAA championship game. Bowie St. – who earned an at large bid after their 20-9 regular season mark – was seeded eighth leading to a rematch less than a week later at Virginia Union.

The Lady Panthers have become the standard bearer of CIAA women’s basketball. Since coach, Anne-Marie Johnson, arrived in Richmond, Virginia Union has played for the national championship and never finished worse than a finalist in the conference tournament.  However, Bowie State seniors Kyah Proctor and Kiara Colson combined for 33 points to leading them to a seismic upset 63-56 in historic Barco-Stevens Hall.

That victory reverberated throughout the nation.  A powerhouse programs was eliminated. The top seed was beaten on their home floor as Cinderella joined March Madness in a black and gold carriage from the DMV.  The fairytale bracket was born as the favorite from the region lost its first game.

It was the Lady Bulldogs defense holding the CIAA champions to 30.6 percent shooting that was the difference. Virginia Union made only 15 of 49 field goal attempts in one of the biggest wins in the history of Bowie St.’s program.

Edinboro was next up for the Lady Bulldogs in the round of 32.  One week to the day after falling in CIAA Championship Bowie St. had to regroup to survive and advance to the regional final. They struggled to pull away despite leading by 15 in the first half and 68-60 with 5:49 remaining in the fourth quarter. Sade Chatman led them 19 points and seven rebounds and it was on to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time.

Ultimately, the glass slipper didn’t fit. Indiana (PA) University’s front line was too much and Bowie State ride towards a national champion was over. The program grows from making this run even in defeat. There are big shoes to fill thanks to a great senior class who weathered a storm.  Earlier this century Va. Union vs. Bowie St. was the best rivalry in Division II and it’s back. The players   just dress in different locker rooms now.