An ‘E’ for Excitement

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: March 4, 2008

CIAA Soulabration 2008CHARLOTTE — First of all, congratulations to the Lady Bears of Shaw University and the Golden Bulls of Johnson C. Smith for winning the women and men championships respectively of the 63rd CIAA Basketball Tournament.

Now normally, achieving excellence gets a different score from your normal grading system. When normally the letter “A” stands for excellence and the play of both the men and women proved to be excellent, this year’s tournament gets an “E” for excitement because this year’s tournament proved yet again, the Annual tournament so many HBCU alumni of the historic Conference come to love and enjoy, put on a thrilling and exciting showing for thousands of fans all week long.

There are many “signatures” of the CIAA: The Black national anthem, Mr. CIAA, the great fish fry available to enjoy among other delicious soul food, the bands and cheerleaders, the fans showing team spirit in the stands, the funny pictures and sights on the jumbotron, the social gatherings and night life each night of the week and the celebrities you can see and meet in and out of the arena.

To me though, the one signature and mainstay of the Tournament is the usual upset by a lower seeded team pulling over one of the top seeded teams in the conference. But throughout the first few days of the Tournament, upsets didn’t look likely especially on the women’s side.

//<![CDATA[ //]]>

The Lady Bears cruised through most of their games with wins over Virginia State, Fayetteville State and the hometown Lady Golden Bulls in the finals.
They didn’t leave much room for upsets, but still the excitement mounted to see if J.C. Smith could win the championship after knocking off the number two seed Bowie State.

It wasn’t to be as Shaw won 61-50 and took their seventh title in school history and fifth CIAA Championship in the last six years. The Lady Bears earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Division II playoffs.

The men’s side of the world was quite different. The upsets started on Wednesday when 10th-seeded Shaw pulled a mild upset over Livingstone College 74-60. Shaw came into the game with only four wins on the season.

The upsets continued as the Broncos of Fayetteville State got it going with wins over No. 3 Elizabeth City State and then an impressive and exciting comeback win against the No. 2 Bowie State to make it to the finals against the “hometown heroes” of J.C. Smith.

Unfortunately, “Mr. Cinderella’s” time ran out and the Broncos were overmatched by the Golden Bulls in the final 65-57. There were so many exciting storylines to this year’s tournament to choose from that had fans, alumni and the media talking about from the seats of the Bobcat arena to the seats of every restaurant, bar and club in Downtown Charlotte.
Just look at these story lines going into the weekend:
– The J.C. Smith men and women were trying to become the first school to win the Tournament in the same year since Norfolk State University did it over 10 years ago.

– The Bowie State men and women teams were both in the semi-finals trying to win their way to the championship and both failing to make it.
– Fayetteville State was trying to continue the streak of a number six seed or lower to win a CIAA Championship.

– The bold prediction of Shaw Coach Jacques Curtis in a “guarantee of a CIAA Championship” for the Lady Bears and watching his prediction come true.

From the “scowl” of the legendary coach of Virginia Union Dave Robbins pacing the sidelines to the colorful jackets and personality of Sam Hanger of Fayetteville State, this year’s tournament was as filled with as much spectacular plays, nail biting moments, emotions, laughs, tears, joy as the stands were filled with eager fans waiting on the edge of there seat for the next “magical moment”.

From the glitz and glamour of the stars and celebrities to the ultimate celebrity of them all: “MR CIAA”.

Yes, with changes on the horizon for The prestige’s conference, its nice to see one thing hasn’t changed and never will: The “E” for excitement that makes the CIAA Tournament so uniquely special to thousands each year around the country.