Livingstone is a game away from its first CIAA men’s championship.
The Blue Bears (22-5) rolled by Elizabeth City State 68-53 Friday at Time Warner Cable Arena to secure their second berth in the title game in three seasons.
Livingstone, the No. 1 seed in the South Division, is playing with the confidence of a team on a mission.
“I feel good with this group but we still have to play a game,” Blue Bears coach James Stinson said. “That’s why you have to play, no matter who it is we have to match up and play LC basketball.”
That meant exploiting its size advantage against the smaller Vikings (17-11), the North’s No. 2 seed, especially on defense.
The Blue Bears rotated a big lineup that included 6-foot-8 guard Eladio Espinoza to slow down Elizabeth City State guard Angelo Sharpless, the CIAA’s player of the year. Sharpless led all scorers with 20 points, but scored only four in the first half when Livingstone sprinted away. The Blue Bears never trailed and led by as many as 24 points.
Three from Livingstone scored in double figures, led by Mark Thomas and Jody Hill with 13 each. Ethan Anderson had 11 and Omar Ford-Bey 10.
Livingstone ripped off a 13-0 run to open the game and led 32-17 at the break. The Blue Bears never trailed with Hill controlling the offensive tempo with 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting and Espinoza tossing in eight of his nine points on 3-of-6 shooting.
Although neither side shot particularly well, the Blue Bears’ defense stymied Elizabeth City State. The Vikings struggled from three-point range, going 1 of 12 from beyond the arc. They committed 11 turnovers that Livingstone converted into 11 points.
Livingstone finished with a 40.8 shooting percentage; the Vikings managed 35.5 percent.
Bowie State 83, Winston-Salem State 66: Byron Westmorland had 27 points and Dameatric Scott added 21 as the Bulldogs advanced to Saturday’s final against Livingstone. Justin Glover led the Rams with 29 points.