By Bowie State University Athletics
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – CIAA Defensive Player of the Year Kyaja Williams stepped up big on offense to give nationally-ranked Bowie State an improbable win.
Williams produced 12 points and 10 rebounds including a layup as time expired to give Bowie State a 48-47 women’s basketball quarterfinal victory over Johnson C. Smith in the CIAA Tournament at the Spectrum Center on Thursday (2/27). Her basket capped a furious rally for the Bulldogs, who trailed by 10 points with two minutes left.
The Bulldogs (23-4 overall), seeded third in the Northern Division, will square off against Northern Division top seed Virginia Union, the two-time defending conference champion, in a semifinal matchup on Friday at 3 p.m. This will be the third meeting between the two CIAA titans, but everybody’s mind was on how Bowie State pulled out the win against Johnson C. Smith, seeded second in the Southern Division. Both BSU and JCSU split during the regular season.
The Golden Bulls (17-10 overall) kept the Bulldogs, ranked 25th in the D2SIDA National Poll, at bay much of the game. It appeared JCSU was about to finish off its opponent when All-CIAA player Le’Zarea Bowens scored on a layup for a 47-37 lead around the two-minute mark.
The situation was bleak for the Bulldogs, but they suddenly came to life, finishing the contest on an 11-0 run capped Williams’ layup. During that stretch, the Bulldogs forced several turnovers that aided their rally. For the contest, they scored 24 points on 27 Golden Bulls’ miscues.
“We turned it up the last two minutes of the game and played with some heart,” said Bowie State Head Coach Shadae Swan, who gained her 100th coaching victory. “We started slow, and I believe reality set in the fourth quarter that we were losing. We were able to get some stops on defense and score on offense.”
After JCSU was called for a charging foul, the Bulldogs inbounded the ball at midcourt following a timeout. They missed an open layup on their first attempt put retained possession after the ball went out of bounds with 2.2 seconds left.
Williams was posting her defender when she received the in-bound pass in the paint. After spinning inside near the goal, she lofted the ball softly over the rim. It bounced a couple of times before falling through, setting off a celebration on the Bowie State bench.
Williams saw no irony in scoring the winning basket even though she is well-known for her defensive prowess. She sees herself as total player, capable of producing on offense and defense.
JCSU Head Coach Stephen Joyner, Jr. says her mindset is why she came through for the Bulldogs at the end. He lamented the fact that the Golden Bulls let the contest slip away after leading nearly the entire game. The final score was Bowie State’s first lead since a 5-4 score early in the first period.
“We choked. Bottom line,” Joyner said. “I don’t know how else to explain it. I take full responsibility for it. Hats off to Bowie.”
Talanya Hutton added 11 points and Chyna Butler scored 10 points for the Bulldogs, who won despite shooting 29.9 percent from the floor. Bowens tallied a double-double for JCSU with 17 points and 12 rebounds and Aubriana Bonner added 13 points. Alexxus Sowell collected 10 rebounds for the Golden Bulls, who shot 38.3 percent.
Bowens posted seven points and six rebounds in the first half as the Golden Bulls charged out to a seven-point first period lead and stretched it to 21-12 at halftime. The Golden Bulls relied on defense to build a working margin, holding the Bulldogs to 16.1 percent shooting.
JCSU shot 46.2 percent in the first period to set the tempo, but both teams cooled off considerably in the second period. Both teams combined for three field goals as the Bulldogs shot 12.5 percent and the Golden Bulls made 10 percent of their shots.
Bonner added five points for the Golden Bulls in the first half. Hutton scored four points and Williams pulled down 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs.
The second half was all Golden Bulls until the last two minutes when Bulldogs started their late rally.
“We had to keep pushing,” Butler said. “The game is not over until the fourth quarter is over.”
The Bulldogs proved that.