Shaw Lady Bears win first ever National Championship
By Donal Ware
SAN ANTONIO, Tex. - And then there was one.
The Shaw Lady Bears came back from an 11-point halftime deficit to claim an 88-82 overtime victory over No. 2 ranked Ashland to claim Shaw's first national championship in any sport.
"This is what Coach recruited us for," said Shaw senior center Aslea Williams. "I wasn't going to finish my senior year with a loss. Even when I didn't play well, my teammates had my back."
The Lady Bears got off to a quick start, but soon fell behind and trailed 43-32 at halftime.
"We weren't that concerned that we were down by 11 at the half," said 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," said 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."
Shaw jumped on top 8-2 early, but Ashland made an 11-2 run to claim a 13-10 lead with 13:56 left in the half.
The Eagles shot 50 percent from the field in the first half. Jena Stutzman's three-pointer with 54 seconds left in the first gave Ashland their largest lead of the game, 43-29. The Eagles had a chance to go up by 15 points towards the end of the first half, but a steal by Williams and Brittany Ransom's layup pulled the Lady Bears to within 43-32 at halftime.
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 at 45-41.
Off a Buford missed shot, Williams got the rebound missed two put backs before finally converting and pulling Shaw within 45-43.
Stutzman hit another three-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. The two teams exchanged buckets to tie the score at 52, then - off of one of Alyssa Lane's six steals - Harris sank a short jumper that gave the Lady Bears their first lead since early in the game.
The two teams exchanged buckets for another six minutes, but the Eagles got a layup from Stutzman and a three from Lindsay Tenyak to give them a five-point lead. Griffin responded with four straight points, then Williams' jumper gave the Lady Bears the lead 70-69.
With 25 seconds left in regulation, Williams hit a layup that gave Shaw a 72-69 lead, but with six seconds left, Stutzman hit a 30-foot three 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.
Griffin opened the extra period with a jumper and Williams hit a layup and free throw to give the Lady Bears a 77-72 lead.
With 2:11 left in overtime, Spencer hit a layup to give Shaw a 79-72 lead. Ashland was forced to foul and in the closing minutes, Shaw hit seven of eight free throws.
"It's a surreal feeling right now," said senior forward Kyria Buford. "After all we've gone through, it just feels unreal."
Shaw committed only eight turnovers, while forcing the Eagles into 21 miscues.
Shaw finishes the season with a 29-6 mark, including a 15-game winning streak and winning 26 of their last 27. Ashland had their 33-game winning streak snapped and finish the season 33-2.
Griffin led Shaw with 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting. Spencer added 16 points and led Shaw with seven assists. Both Ransom and Williams had 14 points with Williams also garnering 11 rebounds. Buford added 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Stutzman led Ashland with 32 points. Kari Daugherty added 24 and Alyssa Miller had 12.
Shaw becomes the first women's HBCU to win an NCAA National Championship since Hampton won in 1988.
Shaw Lady Bears win NCAA Division II Championship