BOWIE — The Bowie State University women’s basketball team opened the new year with a tough Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) matchup against Johnson C. Smith, who proved to be one of the Lady Bulldogs tougher challenges this season.
Pere Alexander put together a solid second-half, finishing with a team-high 14 points, two rebounds and two steals to lead BSU to a narrow comeback win over JCSU, 60-57, on Jan. 5 at A.C. Jordan Arena.
Bowie also got double-double performances from forward Kyaja Williams, who recorded 11 points and 10 rebounds and forward Dynaisha Christian, (10 points and 12 rebounds).
Bowie held JCSU to under 30 percent shooting in the second half as opposed to 47 percent in the first half. Missed assignments on defense and insufficient rebounding were the primary reasons the Bulldogs trailed 32-29 at halftime. Fortunately, they turned things around beginning in the third quarter.
“I’m definitely proud. We showed a lot of heart,” Head Coach Shadae Swan said moments after Bowie’s close win.
“Our intensity was there. We played smarter. We did all of the little things like getting on the floor, boxing out, rebounding – so I’m definitely proud of the way we turned things around in the second half.”
Alexander scored 11 second-half points, Williams grabbed timely late-game rebounds and Shawnkia McCallum knocked down crucial free throws in the final minute to help Bowie outscore Smith 31-25 in the second half and secure its 10th straight win.
Alexander said the Bulldogs (11-1, 3-0 CIAA) are in a pretty good spot at this point in the season, but stressed that they have to remain focused and play with relentless mentality as conference opponents aim to end BSU’s win streak.
“They came out pretty aggressive on us,” Alexander said of JCSU’s energy to start the game. “We knew that, but we had to get adjusted first. But once we got adjusted…there was no doubt in my mind that we were going to win.”
Between the second and third quarters, the momentum shift worked in favor of Bowie and to Johnson C. Smith’s detriment. The Golden Bulls began the second half lacking the efficiency it showed at the beginning of the afternoon.
“Just mental errors,” JCSU Head Coach Stephen Joyner Jr. said regarding the central reason for the loss. He credited Bowie’s aggression and cohesiveness as a team in the second half.
“Bowie is a team that is together right now and is listening to their coaches, and that’s what made the difference at the end. They just executed what they do every day. [Pere Alexander] came back in the second half and was aggressive, and her teammates found her. And I think it was just them executing and being a team.”
Guard DeJane’ James scored a game-high 17 points on 3-of-6 makes from the three-point line along with three boards and three steals to lead the Golden Bulls (4-8, 1-1) as their only double-digit scorer.
DeNajha Porter and Imari Montavalo pulled down 10 rebounds apiece and combined for 11 points.
“We had some minor turnovers, we didn’t finish around the rim, and we had some box-outs defensively that we should have got,” Porter said of the small miscues that ultimately cost her team the upset victory.
“We gave them second-chance points, that’s what killed us and our turnovers. But I say if we came out with that pressure like we did in the first half, we would’ve pulled it off. But just from the amount of mistakes, we fell short.”
Bulldogs survive Golden Bulls comeback
If it weren’t for David Belle’s late-game heroics, the Johnson C. Smith basketball team probably would have pulled off the biggest upset in CIAA basketball thus far this year.
Bowie State’s comfortable 17-point lead with about 12:30 remaining turned into a tie game on the very last possession of the game, which had all of A.C. Jordan Arena the most anxious it has been the entire season.
With the game tied and time running out, guard Cameron Hayes misfired on a turnaround 12-foot jumper, but Belle was there for the offensive board and put up a short-distance jump shot as time expired.
His putback shot attempt fell short, but a foul was called with 0.4 seconds remaining.
Belle, with poise, drilled both free throws to seal the win as Bowie escaped Johnson C. Smith, 67-65, on Jan. 5.
“I feel like I had some key turnovers during that run, so I just wanted to close the game out and win it,” Belle said. “Whatever it took to win – that’s what was running through my mind. Whatever plays I needed to make to win the game.”
Belle tallied only eight points, but made the most critical plays in the final two minutes, including timely blocks, rebounds and going after loose balls. The junior guard had seven boards and two assists. He said Bowie played too lackadaisical when it held a sizable lead, but pulled it together at the end to clinch the win.
“I think we just relaxed. We went up big and we just kind of let our foot off the break,” Belle said.
Keith Duffin Jr. scored 16 to go with five rebounds, and Cameron Hayes chipped in with 13 points and three rebounds to lead the way for the Bulldogs (6-8, 2-1 CIAA).
Head Coach Darrell Brooks said he was pleased with the defensive effort from his guys, but said they will certainly have to limit careless turnovers and sharpen half-court offense as conference play soon gets tougher.
“I feel our guys fell asleep down the stretch with that lead offensively,” Brooks said. “We didn’t cut hard, we made bad decisions, but we kept fighting defensively…our guys were determined to come out of this with a win. That was their only thought, and that’s what we did.”
JCSU Head Coach Stephen Joyner Sr. said the superb man-to-man defense was the critical component in mounting the comeback rally, which began about midway through the second half. The Golden Bulls (2-7, 0-3) held the Bulldogs to 5-of-21 shooting in the second half.
“I’m just so glad that my guys did fight, got back in the game, did enough things to win the game, but we fell one play too short,” Joyner said.
Roddric Ross scored 16 points and had six rebounds, and Cayse Minor added 10 points for JCSU.
Bowie hosts conference opponent Livingstone on Jan. 7 at 7:30 p.m. before traveling south for a three-game road trip in North Carolina in more CIAA action at Saint Augustine’s, Shaw and Fayetteville State.