CHARLOTTE, N.C.ûWith the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament known as much for its parties as its basketball, Johnson C. Smith players were asked where they were going to celebrate the school’s first title since 2001.
As his players snickered, coach Steve Joyner answered for them. ”Brayboy,” Joyner said, referring to the name of the school’s gymnasium just down the road. ”Don’t get me started.” J.C. Smith defeated Fayetteveile state, 65- 57 for the title and an automatic berth in the Division NCAA Tournament.
The Golden Bulls could be forgiven for wanting to take part in some of the festivities surrounding this weeklong celebration of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, for the home school had finally won it in the event’s third year in Charlotte. ”Playing in your own backyard provides some sort of pressure,” Joyner said.
”It’s the kind of pressure that you have to learn to live with. If you’re able to take advantage of it, the reward is even bigger.” Behind senior Edmund Rainey’s 16 points and nine rebounds and a late 9-0 run, Johnson C. Smith (21-9) recovered from blowing a 16- point first-half lead to defeat to earn the CIAA’s automatic bid into the NCAA Division II tournament.
The recent doubleheader where Shaw beat Johnson C. Smith 61-50 to win the women’s title was just a small slice of the CIAAtournament. But those who stayed away from the parties and fashion shows saw an upset-filled tournament. Johnson C. Smith knocked off top-seed Virginia Union, while sixth-seeded Fayetteville State (14-15) beat 20-win teams Elizabeth City State and Bowie State, then made the Golden Bulls nervous late.
With coach Sam Hanger, in a cream-colored jacket, pumping his fist during the late comeback, the Broncos got to 48-47 on Darshawn Johnson’s two free throws with 5:36 left. But Maurice Hooper hit a 3-pointer and Rainey had two free throws and a bucket in the lane to end what has been mostly frustration for Johnson C. Smith in the CIAA title game.
The Bulls had been 1-8. Phillippe Harris scored 18 points and Andy Gebru had 13 for Fayetteville State, which shot 30 percent. ”These kids played so well the last two nights, oftentimes it’s difficult to muster it up a third night,” Hanger said. ”I thought we made a good comeback.”
It was gridlock on the streets and sidewalks in the downtown area as fans attended invitation- only bashes, cooking shows and shopped in a makeshift mall set up in the arena’s practice floor. An estimated 165,000 fans were expected to attend some event associated with the CIAA tournament week, with the many never seeing any of the 18 games.
Those who did saw Joyner, in his 21st season, mobbed at midcourt at the final buzzer. Jerry Hollis added 15 points and Hooper 13 for senior-dominated Johnson C. Smith. ”I saw the players take control of their basketball team,” Joyner said. ”That’s important.”
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