CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The double overtime women's game between Virginia State University and Bowie State University Wednesday (Feb. 29) exemplifies what the CIAA Tournament is all about.
Clutch shots, big plays, thrilling action.
In the end, Bowie State prevailed 72-67 at Time Warner Cable Arena to reach the semifinals on Friday. The Lady Bulldogs (9-15 overall) will meet the Shaw University-Saint Augustine's College winner at 1 p.m.
For most of the game, the contest was intense. Neither team gave an inch as lead switched back and forth. The seven-point final margin was the largest lead of the game. The lead changed 17 times and the score was tied 14 times.
The Lady Bulldogs, seeded second in the Northern Division, finally finished off the Lady Trojans (17-13) with a 10-5 run in the final 2:14 of the second overtime. It was the first time since early in the contest that the Lady Bulldogs gained any breathing room.
"Our senior leadership won this game," said Lady Bulldog head coach Renard Smith, getting his first tournament win. "We refused to lose in the first and second overtime."
The Lady Bulldogs placed four players in double figures and three of them were seniors. Juliette Turner led the way with 18 points and 11 rebounds and Chanita Jordan added 16 points and four blocks. Kim Jones scored 10 points and sophomore Brooke Miles chipped in 12 points.
Turner and Jordan combined to score nine of the Lady Bulldogs' 10 points in overtime. They all came at the free throw line as the Lady Bulldogs connected on 11 of 15 free throws combined in both overtime sessions.
"This was more intense than the last three years I've played in the tournament," Turner said about the victory.
But Smith was confident in his team for several reasons. One was his veteran players, who guided the team out of an early season tailspin. The Lady Bulldogs, 1-12 overall at one point, are playing their best basketball of the season.
The other was the conditioning of the players. Smith did not substitute in the second half and both overtimes. Also, history was in favor of the Lady Bulldogs. They are 5-0 in overtime against the Lady Trojans, the No. 3 Northern Division seed.
"Going into overtime, I told them this was our game," Smith said. "Unless someone was going to pass out, I was not going to sub."
His veterans rewarded him by gutting out a win against a young and feisty Lady Trojans. That is of no surprise to Smith since his upperclassmen are responsible for a midseason turnaround which has the Lady Bulldogs winning six of their last seven games.
"We got tired of losing," said Turner, an All-CIAA forward. "We wanted to dig deeper and put egos aside."
Added Jordan: "We were a new team at the beginning. We had to get used to each other."
The Lady Bulldogs started to roll when Jordan returned the second half of the season. They needed both players against the Lady Trojans, who were 1-1 against the Lady Bulldogs during the regular season.
Marquilla Evans led Virginia State with 16 points. Quiana Kizer scored 15 points and Brianna Holt added 10 points for the Lady Trojans, whose never-say-die attitude almost earned them a win.
"It was a hard-fought game," VSU coach James Hill said. "It was a battle to the end."We have a young group. We have a lot to look forward to next year."
The game was tight, but experience won out.
"If everything is clicking, I don't see anyone beating us, especially if Chanita is in the paint," Turner said.