BALTIMORE, MD – Fifth-seed Winston-Salem State held off a frantic rally by sixth-seed Lincoln Pa. to claim its second CIAA Tournament men’s championship in the last three seasons with a 62-57 win here at CFG Bank Arena.
It is the 13th CIAA Tournament title for Winston-Salem State. The Rams were presented the championship trophy named for CIAA and WSSU coaching legend Clarence “Big House” Gaines. It’s the 70th anniversary of the Rams’ first tourney title in 1953 with Gaines at the helm.
The Rams (21-8) won four games in four days to take the crown and now advance to the NCAA Div. II championship tournament with the CIAA’s automatic bid.
WSSU survives Lincoln comeback
WSSU 6-10 center Jaylon Gibson scored nine of his 11 points in the second half to help stave off the Lincoln surge. Six-two sophomore guard Samage Teel had 8 of his team-high 14 points in the first half as the Rams (21-8) built a 29-18 at the break.
Lincoln turned to full-court pressure in the second half. The Lions opened the period with a 14-5 run to cut the deficit to 34-32 with 11:41 to play on a fallaway jumper by Reggie Hudson. The Lions drew even at 34 on an inside layin by center Peter Sorber at the 10:59 mark. Lincoln (17-15) however could not take a lead.
After a timeout, WSSU head coach Cleo Hill Jr., had his team go inside and Gibson delivered. He had two dunks among four baskets as the Rams went on a 17-5 run in a five-minute stretch that gave them a 51-42 lead with just 1:29 left.
Lincoln fouled and stayed within striking distance cutting the lead to 50-47 on a 3-pointer by Korey Williams with just :02 seconds left. Two free throws by Teel closed out the scoring.
Hudson led Lincoln with 14 points before fouling out with 3:43 left. Williams added 11 points and Freddie Young Jr. had 11.
WSSU’s Alston garners MVP award
Six-four junior guard Jaylen Alston, who had 8 points in the final, was named the tournament MVP.
He had 9 points and played tough defense on Virginia Union’s league MVP Robert Osborne in a 45-44 semifinal win over the tourney’s top seed. He led the Rams with 16 points and 11 rebounds in a 60-52 win over Claflin in the quarterfinals. Alston had 16 points and 8 boards in a first round win over Saint Augustine’s.
2023 CIAA All-Tournament Team
Trey Richardson, Elizabeth City State
Kaleb Coleman, Fayetteville State
Bakir Cleveland, Lincoln
Reggie Hudson, Lincoln
Jamari Roberts, Shaw
Robert Osborne, Virginia Union
Keleaf Tate, Virginia Union
Jaylon Gibson, Winston-Salem State
Samage Teal, Winston-Salem State
Jaylen Alston, Winston-Salem State – MVP