BALTIMORE, MD — In a CIAA Tournament semifinal that felt like a championship game, Winston-Salem State finally slayed the Virginia Union dragon and punched its ticket to Saturday.
Winston-Salem State knocked off the top seed in a 45-44 win on Friday afternoon. WSSU will play the winner of the Fayetteville State-Lincoln University quarterfinal on Saturday at 1 PM in CFG Bank Stadium.
Redshirt junior Samage Teel hit the game-winning 3-pointer with just over 11 second remaining to carry WSSU to the upset win. Teel scored a team-high 13 points on four-for-eight shooting. He was the lone Ram in double-figures, but eight of them scored.
Virginia Union came into the game with a day-and-a-half rest after beating Elizabeth City State on Wednesday night. Winston-Salem State finished its quarterfinal against Claflin. WSSU turned the ball over 16 times in the first half and shot just 30 percent, but trailed only 21-16 at halftime.
Robert Osborne led Virginia Union with a game-high 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting. The CIAA Player of the Year hit a shot to put VUU up 44-42 with just over a minute remaining, but missed one crucial shot and passed up on another as the Rams held tough to pull out the win.
The win was the third in three nights and the fourth in the last week for WSSU, which improved to 20-8 on the season. That came following a three-game losing streak that earned it a no. 5 seed, and forced it to play against a team that had beaten it four times in a row, including the 2022 semifinals. Head coach Cleo Hill Jr. said he thinks the losing streak was the turning point.
“I thought we were familiar with them as they were familiar with us. I just thought after the three losses we had in a row, we hit rock-bottom as a team,” Hill Jr said after the game. “ Livingstone game kind of brought us back, St. Aug and a tough Clafin team. A lot of credit to Coach Butler and his team, like Winston-Salem State, they have a lot of CIAA championships and both have a lot of history.”
Speaking of history, Winston-Salem State has a chance to pass Norfolk State for the second-most CIAA Tournament Championships in conference history. WSSU is currently tied with former CIAA member Norfolk State, and both programs are second to Virginia Union which has 17 conference titles. WSSU’s last title came in 2020.