It’s going to be a big day in Charlotte with both Winston-Salem State’s teams in the semifinals of their respective CIAA tournaments.
First, the women will face top-seed Fayetteville State at 1 p.m. in a semifinal and around 9:30 (hopefully) the men will play Claflin in another semifinal.
The women haven’t been to the CIAA semifinals since 2005 and Coach L’Tona Lamonte’s gang is playing its best basketball at the right time. The Rams haven’t had the services of their best player, Amaya Tucker, for a long time since she suffered an ankle injury and was lost for the season.
Still, the Rams are 15-15 and if they can somehow slow down the very good Broncos they can get to Saturday’s championship game. The Rams have never won the CIAA title in women’s basketball.
Lamonte, who is coaching at her alma mater, has done one of the best jobs of anybody in the CIAA this season.
“I think we do have enough in the tank,” Lamonte said by phone after Thursday afternoon’s win. “The big thing is they have bought in and our defense has gotten better, especially on the interior. They’ll be excited for this opportunity to get to the championship game with another win.”
For the WSSU men, Coach Cleo Hill, Jr. it was all about defense in Thursday night’s win. The game didn’t get over until around 11:45 p.m., and now they’ll turn around and play the late game again tonight.
It’s safe to say that if the game is a defensive battle tonight you have to like the Rams’ chances of getting to the championship game for the first time 2015.
Over the last four seasons the Rams bowed out in their first tournament game, but those days are over. Seniors Julius Barnes (10 points on Thursday) and Robert Colon (also 10 points) finally got their first CIAA Tournament win. They are the only four-year seniors on the roster.
The Rams, who have won 11 CIAA titles, won their last title eight years ago. It would be fitting that a North Carolina school wins the final tournament in Charlotte after a 15-year run.
Claflin has been in the league for just two seasons but has a balanced team that can score points. Claflin and WSSU split during the regular-season, each winning on its home floor.
And by the way, in the first men’s semifinal at 7 p.m. tonight Fayetteville State and Johnson C. Smith will play each other.
If WSSU and Johnson C. Smith each can get a win, that would set the stage for one of the most intriguing title games in the 15-year run in Charlotte.
Get the popcorn ready.