Saint Augustine's University pulled out another wild CIAA Tournament victory over Elizabeth City State Tuesday (Feb. 28) at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The Lady Falcons eked out a 49-46 first-day win to advance to Wednesday’s round. They will face crosstown nemesis Shaw University, the defending CIAA champion , for the third time this season. Game time is 3 p.m.
“We went into the [ECSU] game knowing we had to fight and battle,” St. Aug head coach Rachel Bullard said. “We have been doing that all season. I am excited for our kids.”
For the second straight year, the Lady Falcons (14-13 overall), seeded fifth in the Southern Division, went down-to-the-wire with the Lady Vikings (13-14), the No. 4 seed from the Northern Division. Last season, the Lady Falcons rallied from a 13-point tournament deficit in the second half to win by two points.
On Tuesday, the Lady Falcons withstood a second-half rally by the Lady Vikings, who trailed 20-11 at halftime. The Lady Falcons opened the second half on a 13-2 run including 11 consecutive points to gain their first lead of the contest at 24-22.
“I told our girls that Elizabeth City State would come out fighting and they did,” Bullard said.
The Lady Falcons suddenly found themselves behind after controlling the first half in a cold shooting game. The Lady Vikings extend their lead to 32-26 before CIAA women’s player of the year Keyona Bryant (Sr./Springdale, Md.) of the Lady Falcons came alive offensively. She scored her first points of the game on two free throws, the first of 12 points she would score in the final 11 minutes to earn Food Lion MVP of the game.
Bryant ignited the Lady Falcons, who went on a run of their own to regain the lead 34-32 on a jumper by Autumn Smith-Faulkner. The Lady Vikings regained momentum when Stephanie Harper, who was unstoppable inside with 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting, made two free throws for a 41-38 with 6:05 left.
The Lady Vikings would hold the lead until Umeka Benson (16 points, 11 rebounds) scored a layup for a 47-46 Lady Falcons lead with 1:03 left. After a ECSU miss, Benson, a 46 percent free throw shooter, canned two from the charity stripe with 16 seconds left for a 49-46 lead.
The Lady Vikings had two chances to tie the game. The first shot was an airball which Bryant rebounded. The second attempt occurred after Bryant was fouled and missed the free throw with four seconds left. The desperation shot, however, banged hard off the backboard as the horn sounded.
Bryant added 12 rebounds to go with 12 points, all in the second half. The double-double was the ninth for Bryant and the eighth for Benson (Soph./Charlotte, N.C.) this season. Led by both players, the Lady Falcons controlled the boards by a huge 54-27 margin including a 21-3 advantage in offensive rebounds. The huge margin in rebounds ultimately decided the contest for the Lady Falcons.
Autumn Smith-Faulkner (Jr. /Charlotte, N.C.) provided 11 points and three steals while providing energy on both ends of the floor. Harper, who added seven rebounds, was the only double figure scorer for the Lady Vikings.
Both teams were frigid from the floor. The Lady Vikings shot 34.7 percent and the Lady Falcons shot 28 percent in the low-scoring affair. The Lady Falcons tied a season-low in points and the Lady Vikings scored the second-lowest amount this season.
At one point, the Lady Vikings shot eight percent on 1-for-12 shooting in the first half which allowed the Lady Falcons open a double-digit lead. Both Smith-Faulkner and Benson scored on layups off consecutive turnovers to give the Lady Falcons a 14-2 lead with 5:50 remaining in the half.
The Lady Vikings finally scored to stop a nine-minute drought. The basket kick started a mini-run which closed the Lady Falcons’ lead to 16-10. Benson stopped the brief ECSU rally with a three-pointer and the Lady Falcons went into halftime with a 20-11 lead.
The Lady Falcons are excited about facing the Shaw, the Southern Division champion, for the third time. Shaw won the first two games by an average of 42.5 points.
“We can’t come out like we did today and be successful,” Bullard said. “We need to hit our shots and crash the boards.”
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