By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
Coming off their trip to the CIAA Tournament finals appearance, the Bowie State women’s basketball team earned their consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament under coach Shadae Swan. The Bulldogs are one of three CIAA teams who made the tournament in what many analysts thought would be a four-bid conference.
Despite finishing ahead of BSU, by virtue of a coin toss, in the CIAA’s north division, Lincoln (Pa.) didn’t make the Tournament. However, the seedings ensure that at least one team from the conference will advance to the semifinals.
BSU, who was within five minutes of winning their first CIAA championship since 1999, was selected the No. 4 seed in the Atlantic Region, after falling to Fayetteville St. who is seeded No. 8 and will face the No. 1 seed Indiana (Pa.) University, who will host the regionals. Despite finishing 25-5, the selection committee didn’t do the Bulldogs, or their conference, any favors by forcing them to meet a conference rival in the opening round.
They have already faced the No. 5 seed, Virginia Union, three times during the CIAA season and won two of those games. On Jan. 30, the Bulldogs beat the Panthers 49-44 before a national TV and radio audience in Bowie, MD. However, VUU handed BSU it’s most lopsided Ioss of the season 59-44 in Richmond, Va. on Feb. 19. Their rubber match came at the CIAA Tournament where the Bulldogs won the semifinal game 61-53 to set the championship meeting vs. Fayetteville State.
Bowie finished the season as one of the most accomplished defensive teams in the nation. The Bulldogs were ranked second nationally in Division II in scoring defense, and 10th nationally in field goal percentage defense, which helped them overcome their offensive challenges during the regular season.
However, VUU has not been the same team offensively without All-American Shareka McNeill, who was lost for the season to a knee injury while averaging 32.1 points after playing in only eight games. BSU held them to a season low with 53 points in the CIAA semifinals.
“I want to tip my hat to a resilient Bowie State team,” VUU Head Coach AnnMarie Gilbert said following the loss in the CIAA Tournament. “Shadae Swan is doing a great job.”
Bowie State’s catalyst this year has been the CIAA’s Defensive Player of the Year Kyaja Williams who earned another postseason honor last week. Williams was named the winner of the 2019-20 Lowe’s CIAA Senior CLASS Award for women’s basketball. The award is presented to the conference’s most outstanding senior student-athlete in women’s basketball.
CLASS is the acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School and was launched in 2001 to recognize seniors student-athletes throughout the conference who excel both on and off the court. The all-CIAA performer is one of only two players in the conference to average a double-double during the regular season with 13.9 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. She also led the nation in steals averaging four per game.
“She’s an excellent student-athlete and truly deserves the award,” said Swan. “She excels in the classroom and [has] done a great job setting the tone and being a leader to her teammates. She’s an excellent role model and has been working hard for four years.”
In addition to her on court accomplishments Williams excels in the classroom also. She is a sports management major, who with a minor in computer science, has maintained a 3.0 career GPA earning dean’s list honors over her last three semesters.