Courtesy: Elizabeth City State Athletics
No. 2 seed Elizabeth City State made clutch plays down the stretch to edge No. 11 seed Virginia State 57-53 in the CIAA women’s semifinals at Royal Farms Arena on Friday.
The Vikings will aim for their first-ever CIAA title against the Lions of Lincoln University (Pa.)- on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“We knew that this would be a tough game,” said head coach Tynesha Lewis. “This year these young ladies have done everything that has been asked of them and beyond. They had a goal at the beginning of this year, to be here in this game and not only to be here but to win it.”
Virginia State’s improbable run ended at 13-17 overall, but not before giving the favored Vikings a major scare. The Trojans entered the contest having defeated two higher-seeded opponents, and they were poised to pull off another upset.But the Vikings made the winning plays in the game’s latter stages.
Valerie Samuel converted a three-point play to pull the Trojans within 54-53 with 1:29 left, but Sireann Pitts answered with a short jumper for a three-point Vikings’ lead. The Trojans would not score again as Felicia Jackson added a free throw for the final score.
The Trojans misfired on a three-pointer and the other trey was blocked in the final 13 seconds.
NyAsia Blango scored 15 points and Jackson added 14 points for the Vikings. Pitts, the CIAA Defensive Player of the Year, amassed seven points, 15 rebounds, five blocks and three assists as the Vikings dominated the glass 40-24.
Samuel scored 16 points and Kaaliya Williams added 11 points for the Trojans, who forced 21 turnovers to keep pace with the Trojans. VSU scored 18 points off Vikings’ mistakes.
Many fans wondered if the Trojans could pull off their third straight upset after leading 14-11 after the first period. The Vikings seized momentum in the second period.
Led by Blango, ECSU outscored the Trojans 21-13 for a 32-27 halftime lead. Blango scored 10 first-half points and Pitts amassed five points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and three assists. Jackson added nine points for the Vikings, who shot 57.1 percent in the second period.
Samuel scored eight points and Williams produced seven points in the first half for the Trojans, who scored 14 points off 10 Vikings’ turnovers.
Friday’s game was similar to the regular season meetings between both teams. The Vikings won close games (65-59 and 55-53) to sweep the series.