By Donal Ware
It’s that time of year again.
The battle for Raleigh.
The rivalry between Shaw and Saint Augustine’s is the CIAA’s answer to the NC State/North Carolina rivalry and dates back to 1907. And despite the fact that the schools are separated by less than two miles, most competitions over the years have been played away from campus.
But that won’t be the case this Saturday nor has it been the case in recent years, at least on the hardwood. Men’s and women’s doubleheader action will take place at Shaw’s C.C. Spaulding Gymnasium.
On the men’s side, the defending CIAA Champion Bears may be the most talented team in the league and have won nine-straight. The leader of the team is preseason All-CIAA selection point guard Tony Smith. Smith is averaging 10 points per game and leads the CIAA in assists (5.3), assist-to-turnover ratio (2/1) and defensive rebounds (5.1) and is second in the league in minutes played (35.5).
Joining Smith in the backcourt is Malik Alvin. Alvin was named the Boxtorow National Player of the week after averaging 23.3 points and close to five assists a game last week in three victories for the Bears. He is second in the league in scoring (19.7) and is shooting a remarkable 54 percent from beyond the arc. In the frontcourt add former top 100 recruit Karron Johnson (12.4 points 5.6 rebounds per game), former CIAA Rookie of the Year Junius Chaney (12.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game), and Devon McClendon (9.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game) and you have a formidable starting five. The Bears are very deep on the bench as well.
The Bears received national rankings – #23 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and tied for #1 in Boxtorow National HBCU Division II/NAIA Top 10 Basketball poll – this week.
The Falcons on the other hand are not as talented and are a younger team. They have however won five of their last six games. Last year’s CIAA Rookie of the Year Joel Kindred (Word of God) leads the team in scoring (13.9) with forward Tyquan Stroman as the second leading scorer (12.5) and is also tied for the team lead in rebounds (4.4).
The Bears are fourth in the CIAA in scoring and scored 103 in a win against Chowan last Saturday. The Bears lead the CIAA in field goal percentage (.521), while Saint Aug’s is in the bottom half of the league in field goal percentage defense (.454). The Bears are a much bigger team than the Falcons.
On paper, this would figure to be a David vs. Goliath matchup.
None of that is going to matter when the teams meet on Saturday (4 p.m. tip-off). Rivalries are like that – you throw everything out of the window. Shaw remembers coming into the game last year as the superior team and losing to the Falcons at Saint Aug’s 68-64 and barely defeating the Falcons 85-84 in double overtime about a month later.
The matchup on the women’s side features two undefeated teams in league play. The Lady Falcons have won five-straight and are led by center Keyona Bryant who is averaging 17.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Bryant is 6’0″ and when you factor 6’2″ Umeka Benson (9.9 points, 8.1 rebounds per game) in the mix, the frontline present some problems for opponents. The Lady Falcons lead the CIAA in offense (70.6) and rebounds (50.0).
After a 61-53 loss at Division I New Mexico State on New Year’s Day, the Lady Bears have reeled off five-straight wins also. Power forward Aslea Williams is one of the dominant inside forces in the CIAA averaging 14.9 points and 9 rebounds per contest, while reserve Kyria Buford averages 11.6 points per game. Shaw scores the second most points per game (69.5) and play suffocating defense.
The Lady Bears like to get up and down and this game will be decided by whether Shaw can use its athleticism to beat Saint Aug’s up and down the floor or whether Saint Aug’s can use its size to its advantage in the half court set.
The Lady Bears won all three matchups last year including a victory in last year’s CIAA semifinals meetings.
If you are going to the game get their early as Shaw’s Spaulding Gymnasium only holds about 1,000.
Known as the Voice of Black College Sports, Donal Ware has covered historically black college and university sports and pro sports across the U.S. for years. He is the host of the nationally syndicated FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW which airs on SiriusXM Channel 141 Fridays from 1-2 p.m. and on radio stations around the country including Saturdays from 11-Noon p.m. on WAUG-AM 750 in the Triangle and from 1-2 p.m. at www.boxtorow.com. You can follow him on twitter @dware1 or @boxtorow