CIAA

CIAA Tourney Ends With a Legacy Fulfilled, But Controversial Issue Lingers

Johnson C. Smith women, Bowie State men cut down the nets to take their titles, while the HBCU basketball conference ponders keeping the tournament in Charlotte

by David Squires, February 27, 2017

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CIAA

Johnson C. Smith's Blaire Thomas (42) sails over Virginia State defenders in the women's CIAA championship game. (Troy Hull, T. Cooper Hull Photography)

Johnson C. Smith (JCS) fourth-year women’s head basketball coach Stephen Joyner Jr. has finally come clean.

He has carried a heavy burden as the son of the school’s men’s coach Stephen Joyner Sr., who has won three CIAA championships in 30 years at the university. Both are also former star guards for the Golden Bulls.

For the younger Joyner, the load became somewhat lighter over the weekend. His Charlotte-based team won the school’s first women’s title in eight years on Saturday night with a 68–59 victory over Virginia State at the CIAA Tournament final in Charlotte.

The win secures automatic participation in the NCAA Division II tournament in two weeks and makes the Joyners the only father-son tandem to win CIAA titles.

The home-team victory was the headline of the week until news reports of a barrage of gunfire—fortunately, there were no injuries—rang out Saturday night in uptown Charlotte, apparently stemming from a hip-hop feud.

Still, CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams declared the tournament “excellent, strategically.”

JCS’s last CIAA tournament titles came in 2009 when the men’s and women’s teams cut down the nets.

“I can honestly say I got a monkey off my back,” Joyner Jr. said. “I felt the pressure of being a coach’s son; people say you have to get it right. I can finally say I have something to add to the Joyner legacy.”

Junior guard Asha Jordan had a team-high 21 points to lead the Golden Bulls (22–7). Junior post player Blaire Thomas, an Iowa State transfer, added 14. Nandi Taylor led all scorers with 28 points in a losing cause for the Trojans (22–8).

The victory repeated a 70–54 Golden Bulls’ win over the Trojans in the teams’ only regular-season meeting in January, but the Trojans still have an outside chance for an at-large bid to join the Golden Bulls in the NCAA Division II tournament.

Joyner said his team’s depth was the difference: The JCS bench outscored Virginia State 42–14. The victory meant the first CIAA title for a North Carolina-based school since 2015.


Bulldogs take bite out of Dawson era

Gold-clad Bowie State (16-14) held on for a 62–54 victory over Fayetteville State (13–16) in the men’s conference final.

The Broncos, led by dynamic point guard Joshua Dawson—heir-apparent to NBA stars Jerry Stackhouse and Joshua Dawson, his uncles—cut a 10-point lead to three points with a late rally to push the score to 50–47.

A referee’s whistle then seemed to suck the life out of North Carolina fans in attendance. Dawson, who closed Friday’s semifinal round with an 18-point flurry in less than five minutes to finish with 28 points, was called for his fifth offensive foul and headed to the bench.

But that whistle was music to the ears of Bowie State guard Ahmaad Wilson, who led the Bulldogs with 20 points.

CIAA
Bowie State’s Ahmaad Wilson (3) goes for a layup in his his team’s CIAA championship victory over Fayetteville State. (Troy Hull, T. Cooper Hull Photography)

Wilson shared what he and his coaches and teammates were thinking when Dawson, who had earlier picked up three frustration fouls, was disqualified after scoring just nine points.

“Thank God!” Wilson said.

“We knew what moves he likes to make,” Wilson said.  “I think that kind of got to him.”

Wilson said he and his Bowie State teammates tried to keep pressure on Dawson, the former Kinston High star. Dawson and teammate Michael Tyson won three championships at the fabled high school, which produced current L.A. Lakers’ star Brandon Ingram as well as Jerry Stackhouse, Josh Dawson, Reggie Bullock and has a history of producing top players going back to Hall of Famer Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell, the former Boston Celtics great in the 1970s and ’80s.


Unwanted headlines

Once again, the tournament managed to generate a barrage of headlines that had nothing to do with basketball. Social media and news sites reported that more than 100 shots were fired at a vehicle occupied by Memphis rapper Young Dolph, apparently stemming from a beef with fellow Memphian and rapper Yo Gotti.

Police reports did not confirm the connection, but no injuries were reported. Still, the speculation created a Twitter firestorm.

In previous years, random violence such as this incident not connected to a CIAA-sponsored event has grabbed the headlines after the city and conference staff has hosted a smooth-running affair that attracts up to 200,000 visitors to the city and pumps close to $60 million to the local economy.

The appearance of a state team in each title game boosted Saturday night attendance beyond 6,000, according to media member estimates. Final attendance and economic impact numbers for last weekend’s tournament won’t be available until March, CIAA spokesman Derek Ross said.


Still the well-oiled machine

Meanwhile, CIAA Commissioner McWilliams said that overall, the event was a huge success and that there had been no reports of any so-called “Black tax” imposed on CIAA participants, which had occurred in the past two years.

Those incidents helped the CIAA forge agreements with the responsible parties, which have resulted in better business relationships and scholarship dollars for the member institutions.

“I think that was a learning lesson for this community,” McWilliams said. “Restaurants, hotels, you name it; there have been isolated events, and they’ve been happening for some time. They happened to be exposed. For us, it’s been great to have open dialogue about those issues.

“We plan 15 championships every year,” she added. “This happens to be our largest one. It gets a lot more attention than all the other ones.”

McWilliams said she was pleased with a transition that this year moved the first two nights of action to 8,600-seat Bojangles’ Coliseum, with the final three nights at 19,900-seat Spectrum Center.

She also said she believed some people may have stayed away this year because of North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, which critics say limits rights of the LGBTQ community.

“I don’t think there are as many promoters here; that [they] don’t come to the games in the first place,” the commissioner added. “I’m not hearing about as many parties and events. … And it doesn’t seem as if the streets are as crowded as in years past, but it still looks like people are here. Everyone has a right to make a choice, based on what their beliefs are,” whether to attend the tournament.

McWilliams also said that along with the decision to host the tournament in Charlotte despite moving eight of 10 other tournaments out of the state, the league strengthened its diversity, leadership and education initiatives.

Meanwhile, the CIAA board is continuing to discuss where to hold its championships for 2018.

“I think our board made the right decision—based on our commitments here in Charlotte, agreements with sponsors and other partners—to do what we need to do to run this tournament this year.

“Eight of our 12 schools are in North Carolina. Our student-athletes have said they want to play in their footprint as much and as often as they can.

“But they also understand the stance we have to take as a conference.”

 
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