By Donal Ware (Special to the Daily World)
On March 23, the Shaw University Lady Bears became the first women’s team among HBCU schools to win an NCAA national championship since Hampton did it in 1988.
The Lady Bears came back from an 11-point halftime deficit to claim an 88-82 overtime victory over No. 2 ranked Ashland (Ohio) to claim the school’s first national championship in any sport. Shaw outscored Ashland 16-10 in the extra period to claim the victory.
The Bears finish the season with a 29-6 mark, including a 15-game winning streak while taking 26 of their last 27 contests. With the loss, Ashland had their 33-game winning streak snapped and finish the season 33-2.
Shaw got off to a quick 8-2 start, but Ashland made an 11-2 run to claim a 13-10 lead with 13:56 left in the half. Soon the Lady Bears found themselves trailing the Eagles 43-32 by halftime.
“We weren’t that concerned that we were down by 11 at the half,” said Shaw coach Jacques Curtis. “We knew we hadn’t played our best, but we felt good and had a lot of energy. We felt we could wear them down.
“We had to make sure we could still see them,” continued Curtis. “They had a chance to put us away in the first, but didn’t take advantage of it. We felt a close ballgame was to our advantage.”
The Eagles shot 50 percent from the field in the first half. Jena Stutzman’s, who led Ashland with 32 points, hit a 3-pointer with 54 seconds left before intermission gave the Eagles their largest lead of the game, 43-29. Ashland had a chance to go up by as much as 15 toward the end of the first half, but a steal by Shaw’s Aslea Williams, and teammate Brittany Ransom’s layup afterward, left the Lady Bears with their 11-point halftime deficit.
Sequoyah Griffin, who had already collected 10 points in the first half, helped key a scoring run to start the second half. With 16:16 left in the game, Griffin hit a three that cut the Eagle lead to only four, 45-41.
Off a Buford miss, Williams got the rebound and missed two subsequent put backs before finally converting and pulling Shaw to within two.
But Ashland’s Stutzman hit another 3-pointer with 15:23 left in the second half to extend Ashland’s lead, 48-43.
But the Lady Bears were not done.
Down 50-45, Griffin hit a jumper and Ransom hit a three to tie the game at 50. Then tied at 51, Crystal Harris sank a short jumper that gave the Lady Bears their first lead since early in the game.
With 25 seconds left in regulation, Williams hit a layup that gave Shaw a72-69 lead, but with six seconds left, Stutzman hit yet another 30-foot 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4.9 seconds remaining tied the game at 72-72.
Griffin’s three-pointer at the buzzer fell short and the game went into overtime.
By this time, the Lady Bears had worn the Eagles down and were much fresher in the overtime period.
The Lady Bears then outscored their counterparts, 16-10, in the overtime period to register the win.
Shaw had a total team effort led by Griffin’s 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting. Brittney Spencer added 16 points and seven assists, while Ransom had a double double 14 points and 11 rebounds. Williams and Buford (eight rebounds, three blocks) added 14 and 10 points respectively.
Kari Daugherty added 24 for Ashland and Alyssa Miller had 12.