The Bowie State Lady Bulldogs had the answer for Shaw University to start each half.
It was the rest of the game that was the problem.
Opening each period, Bowie State got off to a hot start to hold a lead over the Southern Division champion, only to have the Lady Bears respond with game-changing scoring runs as Shaw punched its ticket to its second straight Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Tournament final after a 59-44 victory over the Lady Bulldogs on March 2 in Charlotte, N.C.
Junior forward Kyria Buford, taking a cue from teammate Crystal Harris, poured in five straight points to spark a 19-5 run that turned a slim 24-23 Bowie State edge early in the second half into a comfortable 42-29 Shaw advantage with 9:29 remaining in the game.
Shaw (22-6 overall record), the defending CIAA champion, led by as many as 15 points midway through the period, and was never threatened after that.
The Lady Bears will face the winner of the later semifinal between Chowan and Johnson C. Smith in the CIAA Tournament Championship game on March 3.
Shaw head Jacques Curtis said his team was not wavered by either of Bowie State’s quick starts.
“We weren’t that concerned,” Curtis said. “Defensively, we knew we could get stops. We were down (12-3) to start the game, but it didn’t really matter to us. We knew we just had to settle down.”
Buford finished with 11 points while sophomore center Crystal Harris, who sparked Shaw’s big run in the first half, led all players with 17 points. Junior center Aslea Williams added 13 points.
“All three of our post players came up with big games today,” Curtis said.
Behind senior center Chanita Jordan, the second-seeded Lady Bulldogs (9-16) got off to a tremendous start, getting six points and three blocked shots from Jordan to spur a 12-3 run to start the game.
But Shaw responded behind the physical play by its off the bench reserve center Harris, who scored eight points in quick succession to revive the Bears, sparking an 18-6 run over the next eight minutes to give Shaw a 21-18 lead with 1:44 to go in the period. The Bears led 23-20 at the half.
The Bulldogs didn’t back down following the break, getting four points in a span of 25 seconds from senior forward Kim Jones to retake the lead.
But Buford hit a three-pointer from the corner on the next trip down the floor, and then added a jumper from 18 feet to put the Bears back in front. Junior guard Brittany Ransom added a three from the wing and after a three-point play from Harris and a pretty step-back jump shot from junior guard Brittney Spencer, Shaw was up by 13, 42-29.
Jordan led Bowie State with 16 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots while Juliette Turner added nine points and nine rebounds.
Curtis said he expects to meet the South’s No. 2 team, Johnson C. Smith, in the tournament final.
“I know it will be Johnson C. Smith,” he said. “The two best teams in the conference should be playing in the championship game.”