Shaw battled back from an eight-point deficit in the second half to down No. 14 Pittsburg State University (PSU), 61-58, and advance to the NCAA Division II Final Four for the second straight year March 20 in Bill Greehey Arena at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

The Lady Bears outscored the Gorillas 9-1 midway through the second half, and battled to build and hold onto a small lead as PSU found a hot shooting touch from beyond the arc.

Shaw (27-6) advanced to the national semifinal where they will take on No. 15 Rollins College. Last season, the Lady Bears lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Clayton State, 63-46. Pittsburg State finishes its season with a 27-6 record.

The Lady Bears shot only 29 percent, but held the Gorillas to 35 percent shooting and forced 20 PSU turnovers, compared to only 12 for Shaw. The Lady Bears scored 17 points off the miscues.

“Sometimes you have to win ugly,” said Shaw head coach Jacques Curtis. “This was the type of game we expected. At this level, everyone can play. This was two teams battling it out and not wanting to go home. Our girls just found a way to win.”

Shaw’s defense carried the game, holding the normally high-powered PSU offense, which averages 71.6 points per game, to only 58 points.

“Defense is our image,” said Shaw senior forward Kyria Buford. “I’m not the best at defense, but I do what I can. We do well in either 2-3 (zone) or man-to-man.”

The Lady Bears trailed the Gorillas, 27-19, with 2:39 left in the first half. Sparked both by five points from junior center Aslea Williams and a defensive effort by senior guard Shemieka Brown, the Lady Bears scored nine straight points to close out the half and take a one-point lead into the locker room.

The Gorillas opened the second half outscoring Shaw 7-1 to take a five-point lead. They then extended their advantage to eight with 12:58 left in the game when junior guard Drew Roberts hit a three to give PSU a 42-34 advantage.

Williams hit a jump shot off of a pass from sophomore center Crystal Harris, and 30 seconds later made a pair of free throws to put Shaw back in the game. Junior forward Enonge’ Stoval sank a layup to trim the Gorilla lead to 42-40.

Trailing by three, Harris—who finished the night 0-10 from the field—was fouled and sank two free throws. Two possessions later, Harris pulled in the offensive rebound, and missed the put-back attempt three times before she was fouled and made one of two from the line to tie the score at 43 with 9:32 left in the game.

With 3:47 showing on the clock, sophomore guard Alexa Bordewick sank a three for Pittsburg State to trim the Shaw lead to one, 53-52. But the Lady Bears scored the next seven points, building a 60-52 lead with only 18 seconds left. PSU hit two threes on either side of a free throw by senior guard Brittney Spencer to seal the 61-58 win.

Williams finished the contest with 24 points and 11 rebounds to lead both squads. Buford had 13 points. Seven other Lady Bears also scored, and Buford and senior guard Allyssa Lane had three assists apiece to pace Shaw.

Bordewick, on the back of four three pointers, finished the game with 16 points. Lizzy Jeronimus had 13 and Roberts had 11. Roberts led the Gorillas with seven rebounds and Bordewick had four assists.

The Lady Bears advanced to face Rollins, who defeated Landers 66-62.

Sherri Fillingham

Special to the AFRO