Charlotte, Gimme Five!!

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: March 1, 2009

CHARLOTTE — The 2009 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Tournament finished in style with two exciting men’s and women’s finals. There were cheers and jeers on the court, slam dunks, fast break points, controversial calls and tears of joy and pain.

I truly enjoyed the tournament this year more than any of the 10 I’ve attended so far because it was nice to see Johnson C. Smith take the crown in their home town in both the men and women brackets.

The Golden Bulls double victory was the biggest story but not the only one. Saint Augustine’s College and Virginia Union both advance their men’s and women’s teams to the semifinals while the Trojans of Virginia State played well enough to make it to the semifinals as a 10th seed.

First, the action on the court.

Led by Wendy Stywalt who scored 30 points, the Lady Golden Bulls of Johnson C Smith defeated the Lady Bulldogs 49-36 in front of a sellout crowd. Stywalt, along with Demetria Bell, helped coach Vanessa claim her first ever CIAA Women’s crown.

Stywalt finished with a game-high 30 points and 12 rebounds and was named to the Food Lion All Tournament Team. Bell finished up with nine points and 10 rebounds for the Lady Golden Bulls. For BSU, Bianca Lee had a team-high 14 points to go with seven rebounds while Teaunsha Robinson and Denisha Kenion each chipped in 10 points.

In the men’s bracket, JCSU repeated as tournament champions by defeating Virginia Union University, 70-63. Jerry Hollis scored 11 of his 19 points in the first half to earn tournament MVP honors and help the Golden Bulls earn a return ticket to the NCAA Division tournament.

The Golden Bulls used a balanced scoring attack to get even for a pair of regular season defeats to Virginia Union. Ryan Scott scored 13 points, Tavaris Little added 12 points and Michael Cooper finished with nine points for the Golden Bulls.

Gregg Thondique paced Virginia Union with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Braxton Byerson contributed 16 points. Virginia Union, which was ranked second in the latest Atlantic Regional rankings, should be invited to the NCAA tournament.

It was the first time both the men and women teams won a CIAA Basketball Tournament Championship in the same year since 1996 when Norfolk State pulled off the feat.

As usual, the tournament lived up to it’s hoopla with memorable moments from the opening tip.

Here are my five memorable moments of the tournament:

1. Saint Augustine’s ladies: The Lady Falcons’ cinderella ride to the women’s final but fell short after losing to the eventual Champion Lady Golden Bulls. Coach Margaret Richards had to be proud of how her young ladies battled in the tournament and with most of her roster returning next season and a great recruiting class on the way, the future is bright for the Lady Falcons.

2. Shaw men: I was ashamed and embarrassed to see the Bears get two technical fouls in a quarterfinal game against Johnson C. Smith and I’m sure the coaching staff and University is embarrassed too. No matter what the officials say or do, as a player you must play through it and let your coaches handle the officials. If you have a question with a call as a player, let your feelings be known to your coach not the officials because they will surely hit you with a technical foul and it also shows a lack of class and sportsmanship.

3. Anthony Hillard: My heart went out to the senior from Fayetteville, N.C. native as he struggled shooting from the floor and the free throw line in Elizabeth City State’s loss to Virginia State. Although Coach Collins and his Trojans did a great job defensively against the two-time CIAA player of the year, he did have some open looks but couldn’t get the ball in the basket. Unfortunately, he picked the worst times to have one of his worst shooting performances of the year and arguably his career. The lost may have hurt the Vikings chances to make the NCAA Tournament too. Whether they get into the NCAA tournament or not, Anthony Hilliard had a great career at Elizabeth City State and will go down as one of the great players in the conference. Hopefully his basketball playing days are not over and they shouldn’t because he has the talent to play at the next level.

4. Steven Joyner: Congratulations goes out to the head coach of Johnson C. Smith men’s basketball team for winning his 400 career game when the Golden Bulls defeated Shaw University Thursday night and taking home the CIAA Title Saturday night against the Panthers of Virginia Union. We already knew Coach Joyner was one of the elite coaches not only in the conference but in all of basketball, but he also is one of the best Athletic Directors in all of sports. Think about how tough it is to recruit great players for the men’s basketball team, oversee athletics and still manage to lead your team to a tournament championship. In an era of men and women coaches who try and juggle the responsibilities of AD, Joyner has master it and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Johnson C. Smith win more championships in the future.

5. The entertainment: The basketball action was great on the court and the celebrities and entertainment was just as good off the court. From the cheerleaders of each schools performing their routines, the shooting contest that took place between students from their prospective schools, Funk Master Flex spinning on the 1′s and 2′s ole’ school music to seeing Mr. CIAA still strut his stuff in multi colored suits. I also was honored to hear and meet the great Earl Lloyd, Yolanda Adams, comedian MO’NIQUE and former NBA player Dennis Scott. Speaking of Dennis Scott, how great was it for him to see his son Ryan help lead Johnson C. Smith to the championship. Their embrace immediately after the game was truly “A KODAK MOMENT”.

I know I left out plenty of great moments at the tournament, but these are five that made an impression on me and like previous tournaments, I will lock the memories in my mind to think back and reminisce with my friends and colleagues.

Until next year of course. See you then!