By Steven J. Gaither
Virginia Union’s magic ride to the NCAA Division II title ended just a bit short on Friday. VUU came out on the losing end of a 93-77 score to Ashland (OH) in what basically amounted to a home game in Columbus, Ohio.
Alexis Johnson led the way in scoring with a season-high 28 points and senior Lady Walker had 19 points and 12 rebounds in her final game for VUU, which finished the season 28-4.
“I’m excited to get back to this dance. Our kids have seen it now and I hope that they understand the level,” Gilbert said. “It’s what I kind of preach about every day.”
It was a long and adventurous journey for the Lady Panthers. They started out the season 17-0, ranking as high as no. 2 in the nation. They then loss four of their next five games, including their CIAA semifinal, and had to wait for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.
They played the entire NCAA Tournament without their leading scorer, Brittany Jackson, who did not play due to disciplinary reasons.
Despite the drama and turmoil, VUU displaced higher seeds, outlasting them in the second half to keep their season rolling. It did it in the Elite Eight and Final Four, but was not able to do it in the championship game against an Ashland team that finished undefeated.
The Lady Panthers may have lost the game, but their success was a triumph for the school, the CIAA, and HBCU women’s basketball.