Livingstone is in a familiar place at the CIAA tournament.
The Blue Bears earned their third straight berth in the men’s championship game with an 83-65 win against Bowie State on Friday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
“Getting back to the championship for the people at Livingstone, it’s not good enough,” coach James Stinson said. “After being able to win one, their expectation is ‘We’ve got to win every time, you’ve got to do better than this.’”
Livingstone (18-9) built a 19-point lead in the first half and withstood a rally by Bowie State (22-8) that whittled the gap to three in the second half. The Blue didn’t panic – at least on the court.
“For the guys on the floor and the sideline, they never wavered,” Stinson said. “I was a little surprised. I thought there’d be a little panic.
“Actually, I did panic, but the other guys didn’t and I said here we go.”
Livingstone will meet Winston-Salem State, which beat Fayetteville State 88-70, at 7 p.m. Saturday in a rematch of last season’s championship game. The teams split their two regular season matchups.
Four Livingstone players scored in double figures, paced by Ty Newman with 18 points and Daryl Traynham with 15 off the bench. Eric Mayo added 12 points and nine rebounds, and Eric Dubose chipped in 10 points.
“I think the guys came out with a vision,” Stinson said. “They played hard from the beginning, unlike what we’ve done before and maintained and stayed with what we’re capable of doing.”
Bowie State, the North Division champion, started slowly and trailed 50-38 at the break as Livingstone exploited the lane for easy baskets.
The Bulldogs made a charge behind Justin Beck and Cameron Knox, who scored 18 and 17 points, respectively. But Livingstone boosted its intensity and increased the gap to win with ease.
“They kind of beat us in every facet,” Bowie State coach Darrell Brooks said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game because of their (physicality) and their size. I thought we fought and gave ourselves a chance to get back in the game but we missed too many shots and allowed too many second-chance shots.”
Stinson knew they would have to play until the end.
“We knew they would make a run with Cameron Knox,” he said. “So we tried to shade his side and make him put it on the floor to get to the basket a little bit more.”
Winston-Salem State 88, Fayetteville State 70: Javan Wells had 19 points and seven rebounds and Marquez Jones added 17 points as the Rams jumped to a 52-36 halftime lead and never looked back. Juwan Addison and Joshua Dawson each had 16 points for the Broncos.