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CIAA Tournament

Lincoln women’s basketball team dedicates CIAA Tournament championship to former teammate

DeAshia Young, who played on the 2019-2020 Lions team, died weeks before the tournament

BALTIMORE — When the No. 1 Lincoln (Pennsylvania) women’s basketball team arrived at Royal Farms Arena for its opening round matchup in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Tournament, they wanted to make a statement.

The Lions abandoned their traditional orange and blue warm-up shirts for a black T-shirt featuring a picture of former All-CIAA backcourt honoree DeAshia Young, who died Feb. 5 of an unknown cause in Detroit. The back of the shirt read #Allfor1 in white block letters, a tribute to Young’s jersey number. It also was inspiration for their performance during the tournament they dedicated in her memory.

The Lions ended the week by defeating No. 2 Elizabeth City State 67-52 for the team’s first CIAA Tournament title.

Young was the team’s second-leading scorer on the 2019-20 team that set a program record with 23 regular-season wins. That team lost in the second round of the CIAA Tournament to Winston-Salem State, but throughout this week’s tournament Young’s No. 1 jersey rested in a frame on the bench alongside the team.

“When you decide that you’re going to honor someone, you have to do it in the best way possible, you can’t halfway do it, you have to go all-out,” said Lincoln head coach Janice Washington. “I did not get to coach [DeAshia], but to hear the stories from [assistant coach Cherelle] Dennis, [Bryanna] Brown and Joy Morton, Shakira Edward, and some of the girls on our current roster that got to play and be around DeAshia a long time, you know that this is a fiery kid who literally put everything she had on the court.”

Bryanna Brown, who is one of six Lincoln players to have played with Young, and this season’s CIAA Player of the Year, fueled the team to the championship victory. Following a slow start, Brown scored 12 out of the Lions’ 16 points in the first quarter to give the Lions their first lead of the game. Throughout the game, whenever the Lions needed a basket, Brown was the Lions’ primary answer, either through a basket or an assist. Brown, a fifth-year senior, carved up the Elizabeth City defense to finish the contest with 28 points and earned game MVP honors.

“I mean, the feeling and idea that I basically had in the second half was to finish what we started as a group,” Brown said. “I knew I had to play with my team, but, you know, also put them on my back and do what I do best, which is getting to the free throw line and finishing at the basket or even shooting the 3. So that’s basically what was my energy going into the second half.”

The Lions are ranked No.10 in the Division II Atlantic region and are looking forward to a little rest before competing in the NCAA tournament.

“We played a good amount of teams and in our conference that we would see, potentially in the NCAA with the postseason bid. So, understanding that our team looks totally different than we did in the fall semester [and] their teams do as well. So, just being able to get our coaches ready to prepare our girls for whoever it is that we’re going to face,” Washington said.

“The greatest thing about the CIAA Tournament being at this point in time is that everybody else is still playing, our bodies get time to heal, and be able to get rest and recovery. All that stuff is going to be important going into NCAAs.”

For Washington, her second year as the Lions coach has been a challenge, but she was proud of the way her team has responded.

“The Lincoln community needs this. It’s been a rough time, but these kids have worked [and] they have fought. Everybody can deserve [the title], but you have to go out and get it,” Washington said. 

Said Morton, a fifth-year senior, who finished with 12 points, “It was so devastating to us. But it just gave us more determination and put more fire into our hearts to go ahead and finish off when we started because this was something that meant so much to [DeAshia]. All she talked about was winning the championship and the fact that she is no longer here to even experience this part, or it’d be able to get to be a part of this. It was only right to do this in honor of her with this one.”

Fayetteville State men end 49-year title drought

With the memory of the 2020 finals still fresh in its memory, Fayetteville State buckled down defensively to beat Virginia Union 65-62 to earn its first CIAA title since 1973.

“I thought we were the best two teams in the CIAA. We went through a lot. They had to go through a lot. This is a perfect ending for me. Winning this game in Maryland is great,” said Fayetteville State head coach Luke D’Alessio. “We just had a lot of heart [and] we played hard. We stuck in there and we kept the percentage down off the fence. We did a good job. So it’s great for the players and great for the school. They deserve it. It’s been too long.”

In the final minute, the Broncos starved off a Panthers comeback by drawing two offensive charges and knocking down free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

In the 2020 CIAA Tournament, the Broncos fell short in the championship game losing by one to Winston-Salem State 63-62. Seniors Darian Dixon and Jalen Seegars were underclassmen on that 2020 team and used the pain from the loss as motivation in this tournament.

“You got to remember that feeling two years ago when we lost. You have to play with a chip on your shoulder, pretty much,” Dixon said. “When you’re tired [or] when you’re hurt, you got push through. The last couple of minutes of the game I was worried. I was, like, we got to still be calm just because of what happened two years ago. Just remain focused. That was the key to the game.”

Junior guard Cress Worthy won championship MVP, his second of the tournament, and finished the contest with 13 points and six assists for the Broncos. Worth believes winning the CIAA championship is just the beginning of their postseason goals.

“We just got to stay locked into Coach Luke’s plan. It’s as simple as that. We’re happy with this CIAA championship, but we want to make a run in that national championship,” Worthy said. [We want to] get that natty. We’ve been talking about it all year, the CIAA championship and then we’re going to work for that natty. It’s just continuing to follow coach Luke’s plan and I believe we can get the job done.”

Mia Berry is the senior HBCU writer for Andscape and covers everything from sports to student-led protests. She is a Detroit native (What up Doe!), long-suffering Detroit sports fan and Notre Dame alumna who randomly shouts, "Go Irish."