CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In a battle between CIAA titans, Bowie State got the better of two-time defending champion Virginia Union to reach the women’s basketball finals.
The Bulldogs received 13 points from Shawnkia McCallum and relied on their typically strong defense to knock off the Lady Panthers 53-41 in a semifinal contest at the Spectrum Center on Friday. The victory sends Bowie State to the championship game, where the Bulldogs will square off against Fayetteville State on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Bowie State (25-4 overall) returns to the title game for the first time since 2017 but is seeking its first championship since 1999, the last of three consecutive league crowns. The Bulldogs cleared a major hurdle in beating the Lady Panthers for the second time this season, shutting down one of the conference’s top-scoring teams in a battle between nationally-ranked squads.
Both teams are likely to qualify for the NCAA Division II Tournament. Bowie State is second and Virginia Union is fourth in the D2SIDA Atlantic Region Poll. Nationally, the Bulldogs are 25th and the Lady Panthers are 19th in the D2SIDA National Poll.
Anticipation was high for their third meeting after both teams split the regular season, but the Bulldogs seeded third in the Northern Division, were in control from the outset. Ranked second nationally in Division II in scoring defense, Bowie State led the entire game as they held VUU to a season-low in points.
The Lady Panthers (23-4 overall) struggled to score, shooting 27.8 percent from the floor. They turned the ball over 17 times, which Bowie State converted into 15 points.
Bowie State was active on defense, which allowed them to win by double digits even though the Bulldogs shot 37.7 percent from the floor.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” Bowie State Head Coach Shadae Swan said. “We were able to execute on offense, play great defense and rebound.”
The win contrasted differently from Thursday’s miraculous quarterfinal victory against Johnson C. Smith. The Bulldogs recovered from a nine-point deficit in the final minute for a one-point victory on a last-second layup.
On Friday, the Bulldogs took the fight to the Lady Panthers, the Northern Division champions. VUU closed within four midway in the third period, but the Bulldogs regained momentum and extended their lead to double digits in the fourth period, leading by 14 late in the game.
The Lady Panthers are strong defensively as well, ranking 10th nationally in Division II in field goal percentage defense. They forced Bowie State to shoot poorly and commit 18 turnovers but VUU couldn’t generate enough offense without All-American Shareka McNeill, sidelined for the season with an injury after averaging 32.1 points in eight games.
“I want to tip my hat to a resilient Bowie State team,” VUU Head Coach AnnMarie Gilbert said. “Shadae Swan is going a great job. I wasn’t happy about our effort on both ends to the floor. I thought we beat ourselves. We took some shots we don’t normally take. Bowie State played its game. We were below average.”
Drew Calhoun scored nine points and Talanya Hutton chipped in eight points for the Lady Bulldogs. Dynaisha Christian finished with seven points and six rebounds and CIAA Defensive Player of the Year Kyaja Williams totaled five points, seven rebounds and four steals.
Dy’Manee Royal paced the Lady Panthers with 12 points. Jasmine Carter recorded nine points, nine rebounds and two steals and Shameka McNeill tacked on eight points.
The Bulldogs set the tone early with their defense, forcing 10 first-half turnovers. They turned VUU’s miscues into eight points, which helped Bowie State build an 11-point lead in the second period. The Lady Panthers managed to get within single digits (23-16) at halftime.
Hutton scored six points and McCallum added five points in the first half for the Bulldogs, who shot 34.6 percent in the first 20 minutes. Royal and Ifunanya Okoye scored six points apiece for the Lady Panthers, who were held to 23.1 percent shooting.