Historically Black College and University hoops are back and better than ever. Fresh off the exciting victories by several teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) over teams from the PAC-12, the HBCU All-Star Challenge gave fans a tournament featuring teams from all four HBCU conferences.
Albany State – Virginia Union
The tournament tipped off on Friday with Albany State vs perennial CIAA powerhouse Virginia Union. Union has three NCAA Division II national titles (1980, 1992, 2005) and has been in the Final Four seven times from 1980-2006. Devon Sims scored 23 points on 6-13 shooting from the floor and 3-5 from three-point range to lead the offense. As always, the Panthers used full-court pressure to produce opportunities. The senior guard also had six steals to lead the defensive charge. Senior Raemaad Wright led both teams in rebounding with 11. Wright chipped in 12 points. Malik Parker led the Golden Rams with 19 points, 15 on shots from beyond the arc. Javian Johnson added 15 and 8 rebounds. Albany State trailed by a basket at the half after trading the lead seven times. The Panthers made the most of the turnovers outscoring the Golden Rams 26-13. When the buzzer sounded it was the Panthers standing tall with a 78-73 win.
Shaw – LeMoyne Owen
If the first game wasn’t frantic enough for your taste, the second game featured the Bears of Shaw University and the Magicians of LeMoyne-Owen (LOC). Three players scored 17 points to lead the Bears to a 78-70 win. The Bears jumped out quickly building a lead as high as 20 points as Jeremiah Pope and DJ Thomas scored 10 and 12 points. Fifteen of the Bears’ 44 first-half points came off turnovers. As a team, Shaw shot 58% from the field including a blistering 67% from three (8-12). LeMoyne-Owens turned Shaw over the same number of times but managed to score only three points in the first half. The Magicians finally found their rhythm six minutes before the end of the half. “Our guys sort of calmed down and they started understanding what they were doing and started reading better,” said Head Coach Bonzi Wells. Shaw’s 20-point lead was cut to eight behind a 16-4 run. Micah Evans and Sam Ibeh kept the Magicians close with 10 and 9 points.
Caleb Simmons tossed in 12 points in the second half to help the Bears rebuild their lead to as high as 13. The Magicians battled back playing the Bears dead even in the half. Dead even isn’t good enough when trailing at the half. Four Magicians finished the game in double figures. Gjerard Wilson and Micah Evans (Dutchtown HS, GA) led the scoring effort with 14 a piece.
Tuskegee vs Fayetteville State
Undefeated Tuskegee kept it rolling Friday with a 43-40 win over defending CIAA Champion Fayetteville State. Awful doesn’t begin to explain the shooting from both teams. Neither team shot over 30%. Cress Worthy was the only Broncos player in double figures and led all scorers with 15 points. Not one ‘Skegee player had more than eight points. They didn’t need it. The Golden Tigers are long. Their bigs swatted 10 shots and snatched 24 defensive boards. Bigs Mason Green and Martez Jones had 4 and 3 blocks each. The Golden Tigers’ points in the paint advantage of 18-12 offset the boost the Broncos bench provided.
Morehouse wins the Battle of Twins
Host Morehouse needed a few late heroics to fend off the Livingstone Blue Bears 70-67 in the nightcap matchup. Game-high scorer Andrew Stewart passed the ball to his twin brother Elijah in the corner for a game-winning three-pointer. Stewart’s triple gave the twin brothers a 39-22 point advantage over Livingstone’s Wonder Twins Paul and Sila Tako.
Nearby Booker T. Washington high school and fellow Atlanta Public School squad Maynard Jackson set the tone with a spirited match-up that was decided in the final minute.
When the young men were finished, LeMoyne-Owen and Virginia Union took the court. Friday’s mistakes were corrected as the Magicians stormed back in the second half to defeat the Panthers 66-62. The Panthers went to the full-court press early in the half holding the Magicians to 23% shooting from the floor including 1-6 from triple-land.
LeMoyne-Owen weathered the storm of the first half and came out slinging in the second. Sophomore guard Tariq Shepherd scored all of his game- and season-high 20 points in the half. The Detroit native shot 3-6 from beyond the arc and 7-8 from the charity stripe. Union’s 13-point lead began evaporating as the Magicians’ inside play improved. Six minutes after building their largest lead, the Panthers trailed by one.
Mr. Steady, Raemaad Wright, led a trio of Panthers in double figures with 18 points. Wright, Devon Sims, Keleaf Tate, and Robert Osborne accounted for all but one of the 31 second-half points. It wasn’t that the Panthers didn’t shoot well from the field, because they were 41% from the field. Their downfall was at the free-throw line. Union missed 11 of their 29 free throw attempts. Their opponents knocked down 20 of 22.
Livingstone vs Albany State
Livingstone redeemed its Friday night loss with a hard-fought win over Albany State. The Blue Bears trailed for most of the game but chipped away at Albany State’s lead in the second half. They got over the hump around the 8-minute mark on a layup by Pharoah Lassiter. The freshman guard from Portsmouth, VA, and junior forward Detionne’ Leach from nearby Newport News, VA led the Blue Bears with 12 points each. DeMarr McCrae chipped in 10 points. The Blue Bears were their own worst enemy in the first half missing all five three-point attempts and half of their 10 free throws.
Albany State helped itself to an 11-4 advantage on points off turnovers and a 5-0 margin on second-chance points. Senior guard Malik Parker led the Golden Rams with 12 points. The Chicago native was helped by forward Maurice Dickson’s season-high 15 rebounds and 10 points.
Lassiter’s lead-snatching layup was part of a 2-minute, 6-0 run by the Blue Bears in the middle of the second half. Four of those six were Lassiter’s. Once the Blue Bears had the lead they never looked back.
Shaw vs Tuskegee
Tuskegee returned to campus with their undefeated record intact after thumping Shaw 65-47 in the fourth game of the day. The Golden Tigers’ size down low was too much for the Bears to overcome. Tuskegee outscored Shaw 26-18 in the paint and out-rebounding the Bears 39-29. Forward Martez Jones (6′-6) and center Mason Green (6′-10) combined for 16 points and 18 points. Guard Gregg Boyd came off the bench to lead the Golden Tigers in scoring with 12 points.
For the second day, Jeremiah Pope and DJ Thomas led the Bears’ scoring attack with 16 and 14 points each. No other Shaw player scored more than 5 as Tuskegee’s bench outscored the CIAA rep 22-11.
Alabama A&M vs Norfolk State
Perennial powerhouse Norfolk State watched its hefty 20-point second-half lead dwindle but was able to hold off a pesky Alabama A&M squad. The Spartans and Bulldogs traded the lead five times in the first half before redshirt junior Cahiem Brown’s layup put them ahead for good with 4:41 remaining in the first half.
Brown did most of his damage to the Bulldogs from behind the arc. The Brooklyn, NY native knocked down 3 of 4 from deep for an 11-point first half. The forward led all scorers with 20 points. Dana Tate. Jr. chipped in 14 points off the bench to go along with 15 from Christian Ings and 10 from Joe Bryant, Jr. Messiah Thompson led the way for the Bulldogs. Dailin Smith, Austin Harvell, and Garrett Hicks chipped in 17-, 10-, and 13 points respectively.
Norfolk State increased its lead on the strength of a pair (8 pt, 7 pt) of mini-runs. A triple by Hicks stopped the bleeding temporarily. Spartans Head Coach Robert Jones credited sloppy play as the reason the Bulldogs were able to get close. “We weren’t attacking as much as we should have against the pressure,” said Jones. “We were kind of breaking the press and bringing the ball back out when we could have attacked more and probably pushed the lead up more and it wouldn’t have been that close.”
A three-pointer from graduate transfer Xavier Brewer (Morehouse ’22) cut the lead to five with a little over a minute to play. The Bulldogs would not get any closer as the Spartans knocked down all but one of their free throws down the stretch.
Morehouse vs Fayetteville State
The Maroon Tigers picked up their second win of the weekend dealing Fayetteville State its second loss 56-54. Andrew Stewart led the Morehouse again with 22-game high points. Stewart knocked down all 10 free throws to go along with his 5 for 13 shooting from the floor. Freshman guard Robert Dix contributed 11 points as the only other Maroon Tiger in double figures.
Cress Worthy paced the Broncos’ offense for the second night with 16 points. Darryl Myers pulled down a game-high 10 boards and contributed 6 points. The Broncos played the Maroon Tigers even in the second half but were unable to overcome the two-point deficit from the first half.
Friday Game Gallery
All photos by Jason McDonald, JM Photography
Saturday Game Gallery
All Photos by Jason McDonald, JM Photography for CORE360 Sports