ROCK HILL, S.C. – The Benedict College women’s basketball team claimed the 2020 SIAC Women’s Basketball Championship with an 85-72 victory over Tuskegee in Saturday’s championship game at the Rock Hill Sports & Event Center, the program’s fourth title in eight years under coach James Rice.
Ay’Anna Bey was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after scoring 22 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the victory. Wykira Johnson-Kelly scored a game-high 23 points and added eight rebounds and joined Bey on the All-Tournament Team. Shanassia White added 19 points.
The 12th-ranked Lady Tigers (27-3) earn the SIAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Championship Tournament. This will mark Benedict’s fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last eight years under Rice. Benedict will find out the location of the South Region tournament and their opponent during Sunday’s selection show at 10 p.m. on NCAA.com. The first round games will be played Friday, March 13.
Unlike Friday’s wire-to-wire blowout win over LeMoyne-Owen in the semifinals, Saturday’s championship game was close from the start. Benedict never led by more than three points, and Tuskegee by more than two, in the first quarter. The game was tied 22-22 after the first 10 minutes of play.
Tuskegee had a 28-24 lead early in the second quarter, their largest lead of the first half. Benedict scored the final four points of the quarter to take a 35-33 lead at the midway break. Tuskegee had a 45-40 lead with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter, their largest lead of the game, but the Lady Tigers regained the lead on a 10-2 run, capped off by a three-point play from Johnson-Kelly. Bey hit a jumper at the buzzer for a 55-49 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Tuskegee was able to trim the lead to one point on multiple occasions in the fourth quarter, the final time coming with 5:45 remaining in the game. White scored on a driving layup and added a free-throw for a three-point play to give the Lady Tigers a 64-60 lead with 5:31 left in the game.
A jumper by Tuskegee’s India Blakely, who led the Lady Golden Tigers with 21 points, trimmed the lead to 69-65 with 3:08 left in the game. Johnson-Kelly answered with a 3-pointer, was fouled after a steal and made one free-throw, and Bey scored inside to make it 75-65 with 2:10 on the clock.
Blakely sank a 3-pointer with 1:11 left to make it 79-72, but that is as close as Tuskegee would get the rest of the way. Tuskegee ends its season at 17-14.
SIAC All-Tournament Team
Ay’Anna Bey, Benedict
Wykira Johnson-Kelly, Benedict
India Blakely, Tuskegee
Ashaila Jackson, Tuskegee
Keondra Archie, Paine
Courtesy: Benedict Athletics