Shaw University wins again in the latest matchup between two of the CIAA’s premiere women’s basketball programs.

Tournament MVP Aslea Williams scored 17 points as Shaw toppled Johnson C. Smith University 72-66 on March 3 in the CIAA championship game at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C. The Lady Bears captured their second straight CIAA title and seventh in 10 seasons.

Kyria Buford added 11 points and Crystal Harris came off the bench to score 10 points for the Lady Bears (23-6 overall record), who lost only one CIAA game this season. That defeat occurred at the hands of the Lady Golden Bulls as both teams split during the regular season. The Lady Bears own the Lady Golden Bulls during the postseason, however. They are 5-0 against the Lady Golden Bulls in the league title game since 2003.

“We expected to win,” Buford said afterward. “But we knew we couldn’t take them for granted. That’s what we did the first time against them.”

LaQwesha Gamble led the Lady Golden Bulls (22-6 overall record) with a game-high 23 points and took down 13 rebounds for the Lady Golden Bulls, who took more shot attempts (87-58), snagged more offensive rebounds (29-9), forced 22 turnovers and outscored the Lady Bears 41-36 in the second half.

Despite being outplayed in several categories, the Bears never wavered in winning their ninth consecutive game. Every time the Lady Golden Bulls pulled close, the Lady Bears stepped on the pedal to gain breathing room.

Four Lady Golden Bulls played 30 or more minutes. No player from Shaw played over 27 minutes.

“We are probably the deepest team in the conference,” said Jacques Curtis, who has won seven CIAA crowns as Shaw head coach. “Teams will make a run at us but eventually that run will stop because you will run out of gas. Eventually we will bring in three to four more people and keep making a run.”

The Lady Bears tied Norfolk State University for the most CIAA women’s titles with nine. Coach Curtis fully expects to break the record next season. First, the goal of the Lady Bears is to make a deep postseason run in the NCAA Division II Tournament. Last year, the Lady Bears made it all the way to the national semifinals.

The Lady Bears defeated the Lady Golden Bulls in the Atlantic Regional final en route to the Division II Final Four last season. This season, the Lady Golden Bulls are currently second and the Lady Bears are fourth in the region.

“We are trying to get a national championship,” Curtis said. “People didn’t believe we were better than last year. They thought we were a one-person team with DeMaria Liles. This year, somebody different is always going to step up because we are a hard group to defend.”

Shaw will open its NCAA run on, March 9, when the Lady Bears will take on West Virginia Wesleyan in the Atlantic Region. The Lady Bears will be making their second straight appearance in the Division NCAA Tournament and second straight trip to Edinboro, Pa. for the competition.

Sherri Fillingham

Special to the AFRO