CHARLOTTE, NC - The Rams of Winston-Salem State secured a spot in the CIAA Tournament semi-finals with a 74-70 win over Elizabeth City State on Thursday evening. Marquez Jones poured in 25 points while Preston Ross and WyKevin Bazemore notched 17 and 13 respectively en-route to the win.
The Rams, the number two seed out of the Southern Division, advance with a 17-10 record and will take on Johnson C. Smith on Friday at 9:00pm.
Bobby Collins, head coach of Winston-Salem State commented, "I was very pleased with the discipline that my team had tonight…it's ironic that we played Elizabeth City State tonight. They beat us earlier this season so I didn't have to do much to motivate my players."
The third seed out of the Northern Division, Elizabeth City State, ends their season with a 14-13 overall record. Dominique Byrd scored a team-high 12 points for the Vikings while Shaquil Barber added 10 in the effort.
Shawn Walker, head coach of Elizabeth City Sate noted, "We just got beat by a better team tonight. Their top three players pretty much dominated us. Overall I'm not disappointed with our effort, we just couldn't stop them…I told my team tonight that the team that wins tonight's game will win the championship. I definitely think Winston-Salem State will win and I wish them the best."
The Rams jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead thanks to two layups and a free throw from Jones. Miykael Faulcon responded with a dunk to put the Vikings on the board two minutes into the contest. A 4-0 run by Elizabeth City State made the score 9-2 at the 14:44 mark but a three pointer by Basnight quickly put the Vikings back in the game.
Winston-Salem maintained a narrow lead for the next three minutes of play. With the Rams leading 17-13 and 11:04 remaining before halftime, Barber completed the three-point play and Byrd drained a free throw for Elizabeth City State to knot the score 17-17 at the 10:18 mark.
Glenn Patterson's three-pointer capped a 7-0 run for the Vikings and gave Elizabeth City State their first lead of the game (20-17) with 9:57 left to play. The Rams responded with a layup and made free throw to make the score 20-20. The Vikings maintained a narrow lead until the 3:58 mark when Winston-Salem State tied the score 30-30 on a made free throw by Tyre Desmore.
With the score tied 33-33 and 1:21 on the clock, two made free throws by Brachon Griffin put Elizabeth City State ahead 35-33 heading into halftime.
Both teams came out strong at the start of the second half. At the 16:42 mark Preston Ross hit a layup for Winston-Salem and followed with another on the next possession to return the advantage (42-41) to the Rams.
Barber's layup for the Vikings followed by a LaShawn Alexander dunk handed the 45-43 lead back to the Elizabeth City State with 14:13 left in the game. A Viking foul with 11:26 remaining in the contest led to Ross sinking two fouls for the Rams and Winston-Salem taking a 48-46 lead. Griffin hit a three-pointer with 10:23 left in the game to hand the advantage back to Elizabeth City State.
Javan Wells responded with a trey on the Rams' next possession but DeCarlos Anderson promptly responded with one of his own at the 9:40 mark to give Elizabeth City State a 52-51 lead.
With the score tied 52-52 and 8:20 left to play, a Desmore three-pointer and dunk by Ross provided a five point lead and some momentum for the Rams. Faulcon answered with a three-pointer for the Vikings but Winston-Salem stole the momentum right back with a bucket by Jones at the 6:15 mark.
Down 63-59 after a dunk by WyKevin Bazemore, Basnight netted a three-point basket for the Vikings with 3:39 in the game to cut Elizabeth City State's deficit to one point (63-62). At the 1:21 mark, Jones completed the three-point play for Winston-Salem to push the lead to 69-64. Faulcon came up big for the Vikings with a deep three-pointer to make the score 69-67 with just 57 seconds left in the game.
An Elizabeth City State foul sent Ross to the line to shoot two for Winston-Salem State. He made good one of two attempts. Ross made two more free throws for the Rams with 13 seconds left in the game but Patterson calmly drained a wide-open three-pointer with six seconds left to keep Elizabeth City State's hope alive. Javan Wells closed out the game with a resounding dunk to confirm the 74-70 win for the Rams.