By Mark F. Gray
Staff Writer
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Normally the basketball court is a therapeutic sanctuary for players and coaches alike.  However, four days after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash on their way to a youth basketball game, the impact on the players and coaches was still palpable at the Bowie State home game against Virginia Union.

From the moment both north division rivals were meeting on the floor of A.C. Jordan at Maryland’s oldest HBCU, it was clear that members of the Bulldogs and Panthers hadn’t fully processed the magnitude of Bryant’s loss.  School officials opened both the men’s and women’s games with a 32 second moment of silence in remembrance of the jersey numbers that he wore during his career. That was more emotional than any time during the 80 minutes of basketball signalling the start of the final push toward the CIAA Tournament.

In home games that began with a tribute to Kobe and Gianna Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, Bowie State men lost to Virginia Union, while the women won 49-44. (Courtesy Photo)

BSU men’s coach Darrell Brooks gave his team the chance to stay away from the gym if they needed to.  He tried to help soothe the open emotional wound for players who were trying to process the loss of a former player they previously idolized during their formative years when many hadn’t experienced such a life changing moment previously.

“They process things a lot different than we do,” Brooks said.  “For me it was like remembering where you were when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It’s something that you will never forget if you’re around our age and you will remember it for the rest of your life.”

Both teams started slow and trailed by double digits when the game tipped off.  

The building was extremely cold, despite what ended up being the largest crowd turnout on campus the Bulldogs had played this season. However, the night ended with mixed results.

Bowie State started the game slow as Virginia Union jumped and trailed 13-1 after the first 2:30 seconds of the game. However, the Bulldogs  rallied and lead 37-36 at halftime.

The second half was a different story as they ran into a perfect storm. The reigning CIAA Player of the Week Tyrell Leach exploded for another 30-point game and the Bulldogs went cold offensively falling to the Panthers 82-71.  Senior David Belle joined BSU’s exclusive 1,000 career point club at the 6:34 mark in the first half and led the Bulldogs in scoring with 17 points.  

“We didn’t deserve to win tonight,” Brooks said after the game.  “They outworked us, they out fought us, they outrebounded us and I tip my hat to them.”

Hutton Helps Women Get Back On Track

After their sluggish start, Bowie State’s women rebounded from their loss at Lincoln with a 49-44 win against the nationally ranked Lady Panthers.  

Coach Shadae Swan did a masterful job at managing her star forward Talanya Hutton, who appears to be laboring with a knee or leg injury that affected her at Lincoln.

However, it was the team defense that sparked the Bulldogs.  They put the clamps on the conference’s best player Shameka McNeill, who led the Lady Panthers in scoring with 13 points.