“We are going to give them a game worthy of television.”

Shaw University head coach Jacques Curtis said those words prior to the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship, and his players made him a prophet as Shaw came back from an 11-point halftime deficit to claim an 88-82 overtime victory March 23 over No. 2 Ashland to claim Shaw’s first national championship in any sport.

“This is what Coach recruited us for,” said Shaw senior center Aslea Williams. “I wasn’t going to finish my senior year with a loss. Even when I didn’t play well, my teammates had my back.”

With 25 seconds left in regulation, Williams hit a layup that gave Shaw a 72-69 lead. But with six seconds left, Ashland hit yet another three-pointed to tie the game and send it into overtime.

“We were disappointed the shot went in,” said Curtis. “But on the positive side, we didn’t mind playing five more minutes. We felt we were fresher. It just gave us a chance to score some more points.”

Shaw junior guard Sequohay Griffin opened the extra period with a jumper and Williams scored a field goal and a resulting free throw to give the Lady Bears a 77-72 lead.

With 2:11 left in overtime, senior guard Brittney Spencer hit a layup to give Shaw a seven-point lead. That would be their last field goal as Ashland started fouling Shaw in order to stop the clock. In those closing minutes, Shaw hit seven of eight free throws, but the Eagles could do nothing to make any real inroads on the lead.

With 17 seconds left, junior guard/forward Kari Daugherty hit a trio of free throws for Ashland that set the final score at 88-82.

For all the high-flying shooting, the game may have been won on the ground and on ball control. Shaw committed only eight turnovers, while forcing the Eagles into 21 miscues. Lane had six steals for the Lady Bears and Williams added another five.

Shaw finishes the season with a 29-6 mark, including a 15-game winning streak which saw them claim 26 of their last 27 games. Ashland had their 33-game winning streak snapped and finished the season 33-2.

Griffin led Shaw with 24 points on 10 for 15 shooting. Spencer added 16 points and led Shaw with seven assists. Both senior guard Brittany Ransom and Williams had 14 points, but Williams coupled hers with 11 rebounds for a double-double. Senior forward Kyria Buford added 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Only Spencer played more than 35 minutes for Shaw, seeing a total of 38 minutes in the game.

Four of Ashland’s five starters played more than 40 minutes, while the fifth played 39 minutes. Senior guard Jena Stutzman was the leading scorer with 32 points. Daugherty added 24 points and sophomore guard Alyssa Miller added 12 points. Daugherty led both teams with 15 rebounds, and had four assists to pace the Eagles.

Sherri Fillingham

Special to the AFRO