Charlotte, NC (CIAA) — After a one-year absence, Virginia State is back in the women’s championship game of the CIAA Tournament. A 12-4 run in the final five minutes lifted the Trojans past Lincoln (Pa.) University 59-51 at the Spectrum Center on Friday. The Trojans (22-7 overall), the No. 3 Northern Division seed, will vie for their second CIAA title in three years on Saturday against the Virginia Union/Johnson C. Smith winner at 4 p.m.
“The mindset was getting back to the ‘ship,” Trojans Head Coach James Hill said. “We faltered a little bit during the season but they continued to believe in the system.”
Endia McKinney, who totaled 12 points and 10 rebounds, provide the clutch shot during the Trojans game-winning run. Her three-pointer turned a one-point lead to four at 55-51 with 33 seconds left. All-CIAA player Taylor Daniels and Dominique Hagins each added two free throws for the final margin as the Lady Lions (9-20 overall) failed to score after McKinney’s game-deciding three-pointer.
Daniels tallied 17 points and 14 rebounds as two Trojans produced double-doubles. In addition to McKinney’s double-double, Joy Hickman added 13 points. All-CIAA player Nandi Taylor had six points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals for the Trojans, who shot 32.8 percent. [easyazon_infoblock align=”right” cart=”y” identifier=”B00DVQUA4Q” locale=”US” tag=”hbcusports-20″]
“The keys to victory were defense, knocking down shots and rebounding,” Hickman said. “We executed the game plan in the last five minutes.”
McKinney’s three during crunchtime was one of four big treys she made in the second half. The Trojans were behind 31-24 at halftime, but her second three-pointer in the third period pushed the Trojans ahead 38-35 and her third trey extended the margin to 41-37. She scored nine points as the Trojans outscored the Lions 18-8 for a 42-39 lead heading into the fourth period.
“I have to keep telling to shoot,” Hill said. “If we were going down, we were going down shooting. She saw the first one go in and she was on from there.”
Though their halftime lead disappeared, the Lady Lions regained the lead 47-44 in the fourth thanks to Teira Pendleton, who drained a three-pointer and two free throws. But Pendleton turned her ankle in the period which was a blow to the Lady Lions.
Head Coach Darrell Mosley acknowledged that Pendleton’s injury affected the Lions, but said rebounding decided the outcome. The Trojans won the battle on the offensive glass 17-1 and outscored the Lady Lions 11-0 in second chance points in the second half.
“This one hurts, especially going into the second half with the lead,” Mosley said. “When you are playing from behind and giving up offensive rebounds, it is hard to get back in the game.”
Pendleton scored 16 points and Monique Cheek added 12 points for the Lady Lions, who shot 40.4 percent. They were the No. 5 seed in the Northern Division.
Cheek scored eight points as the Lady Lions ended the half with eight consecutive points for a 31-24 halftime lead. Pendleton scored six points for the Lady Lions, who shot 47.8 percent from the floor and made 8 of 10 free throw attempts for 80 percent in the first half. The Lady Lions relied on its depth to build their seven-point lead as they outscored the Trojans 11-5 in bench points.
Hickman scored seven points and Daniels added five points and seven rebounds for the Trojans, who shot 30.3 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes. Taylor registered five points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals for the Trojans