College Basketball

Virginia Union, Virginia State take home CIAA titles

Virginia State's Javon Moore, left, and Melvin Gregory react to a referee’s call during Saturday’s CIAA Championship Game against Livingstone College.
Virginia State's Javon Moore, left, and Melvin Gregory react to a referee’s call during Saturday’s CIAA Championship Game against Livingstone College. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

The CIAA’s best teams took care of business on Championship Saturday.

Virginia Union secured its first women’s championship since 1982 with a late-game surge in a 70-66 win against Shaw Saturday at Time Warner Cable Arena. Virginia State beat Livingstone 89-79 in the men’s final, holding off a Blue Bears rally that shaved their deficit to six late in the second half.

The Panthers (25-2), top seed in the North, outscored South No. 1 seed Shaw 10-2 over the final three minutes, 30 seconds with league MVP Kiana Johnson nailing a pair of three-pointers during the decisive stretch.

“That was on my mind,” said Johnson, who finished with 32 points on 11-of-23 shooting. “I had no choice, pretty much.”

Shaw (24-7) shaded its defense to contest the other Panthers but Johnson and Lady Walker, who finished with 23 points, took over down the stretch with eight points each in the fourth.

“I believe this was destined to happen,” Panthers coach AnnMarie Gilbert said. “Our kids worked so hard and everything we thought would happen this season and we were capable of, we achieved.”

All-CIAA center Eboni Ross paced Shaw with 29 points on 8-of-12 shooting while Kaula Jacks added 14 for the Bears, who swapped leads with Virginia Union 10 times and forced 11 ties. Neither side led by more than seven points.

Virginia State grabbed control in the second half, opening with a 12-0 run to get in front of Livingstone. The Trojans (22-5) 21-7 got 30 points from Javon Moore on 7-of-9 shooting and 24 from Kevin Williams on 7-of-13 accuracy.

“We set a goal earlier in the year to be conference champions and we started conditioning and weightlifting with this day in mind,” said Virginia State coach Lonnie Blow, who became the first to lead two CIAA to tournament titles. “For the most part, we were consistent with our effort and for the most part we were consistent with our execution.”

Livingstone (15-16) again got a huge boost from its bench, which outscored Virginia State’s 55-19, but were out-rebounded 38-31 and gave up 21 second-chance points. The Blue Bears were paced by reserves Daryl Traynham and Ty Newman, who scored 29 and 21 points respectively.

“They came out hungry. They wanted it bad,” Newman said. “They looked like the best team in the conference in the second half.”

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