Charlotte, NC – The Fayetteville State University men’s basketball team fell short of the CIAA Championship with a 62-54 loss to Bowie State University in the title game on Saturday, February 25th at the Spectrum Center. FSU caps the season with a 13-16 record after a 3-1 run in the tournament.
The Bulldogs (16-14 overall), seeded fourth in the Northern Division, won the title by exhibiting the toughness that has marked the program since Darrell Brooks became head coach. They won four games in four days in the tournament including victories over Northern Division top seed Virginia Union and Southern Division No. 2 seed Livingstone.
Their opponent on Saturday was equally tough as the Broncos (13-16), seeded fourth in the Southern Division, also played their fourth game in four days. The low-scoring contest featured seven lead changes and three ties but Bowie State made key plays in the second half that turned the game in their favor.
The biggest plays occurred early in the second half with the Bulldogs nursing a 27-26 lead. After two free throws by Enuoma Ebinum, BSU converted two steals off inbound passes into an Omari George layup and a Ahmaad Wilson three-pointer to extend the margin to 34-26. It was the cushion they needed to stay ahead even though Fayetteville State pulled within three points twice.
But after the score was 52-49 on a layup by CIAA All-Rookie guard Josh Bryant (Fayetteville, NC), senior guard Joshua Dawson (Kinston, NC), who averaged 23 points the previous three games, was whistled for his fifth foul at the 2:12 mark. With the FSU floorleader and catalyst watching from the bench, the Bulldogs finished with a 10-5 run to put the game away.
“Thank God!,” said Wilson afterward when asked about Dawson fouling out the game.
Dawson, guarded tightly by a stout Bulldogs defense, scored nine points along with four assists and five rebounds.
“We wanted to keep a fresh body on him,” Wilson said. “He scored 28 the previous night. We didn’t want him to go off.”
Tournament MVP Ahmaad Wilson scored 20 points. Both Omari George and Enuoma Ebinum added 11 points each for the Bulldogs. Michael Briscoe contributed nine points, eight rebounds and two steals for the Bulldogs. George and Dayshawn Wells combined for six of the Bulldogs’ 10 steals.
Bryant produced 14 points and nine rebounds. Senior forward Michael Tyson (Fayetteville, NC) added 10 points and eight rebounds, while redshirt sophomore forward William Tibbs (Winston-Salem, NC) and redshirt junior guard Jyonte’ Raynor (Goldsboro, NC) scored eight points apiece for the Broncos, who out-rebounded Bowie State 40-33.
Playing four consecutive days seemed to catch up with both teams early on. Neither team provided much fireworks offensively as the Bulldogs shot 32.1 percent and FSU 24.1 percent. The point total was the second-lowest for the Broncos and the fourth-lowest for the Bulldogs this season.
BSU managed to generate some offense midway in the half. A three-point play by George capped a 10-4 run which gave the Bulldogs an 18-12 lead with 4:08 left. Fayetteville State came back with an 8-3 run capped by two Dawson free throws to trim the margin to 21-20 at halftime.
Though the Bulldogs claimed the championship, the Broncos felt a sense of accomplishment after defying the odds and reaching the title game for the first time since 2008. FSU knocked off Southern Division top seed Shaw and No. 2 Northern Division seed Virginia State, the defending champion, on the way to the finals.
“We proved a lot of people wrong,” Tyson said. “Nobody expected us to make it this far.”
Both teams displayed fortitude in the tournament, but the Bulldogs finished strong in the closing minutes.
“It was a hard-fought ballgame,” stated first year FSU head men’s basketball coach Ken Spencer. “We fought to the end, but they played better than us and deserved to win.”
Wilson was one of 10 players selected to the CIAA All-Tournament team. The others are Briscoe of Bowie State, Dawson, Tyson and Bryant of Fayetteville State, David Duncan of Livingstone, Quincy January of Saint Augustine’s, Elijah Moore and Richard Granberry of Virginia State and Robert Davis of Johnson C. Smith.
The conference crown was the first since 2013 and the third overall for the Bulldogs, who gained the automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Tournament.
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