The last week in February you will find hundreds of thousands of people in the city of Charlotte, NC for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) tournament. The CIAA conference is primarily   made of up of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) that are affiliated at the Division II level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). There are twelve institutions divided into a North and South division:

North –

Bowie State (Bowie, MD)

Chowan University (Murfreesboro, NC)

Elizabeth City State University (Elizabeth City, NC)

Lincoln University (Oxford, PA)

Virginia State University (Ettrick, VA)

Virginia Union University (Richmond, VA)

South –

Fayetteville State University (Fayetteville, NC)

Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, NC)

Livingstone College (Salisbury, NC)

Saint Augustine’s University (Raleigh, NC)

Shaw University (Raleigh, NC)

Winston-Salem State University (Winston-Salem, NC)

This year was the 11th time the city of Charlotte was the host, since winning the bid from Raleigh. It has been estimated that 40,000 hotel nights are used during the week and hundreds of parties, especially during the day. Charlotte has established itself as the originators of the “day parties”, usually lasting from 2pm – 7pm. These parties include famous entertainers such as Floyd Mayweather, T.I., Rick Ross, 50 Cent, Anthony Hamilton, Regina Bell, Fabolous, Jeezy, and the list goes on and on. In total, the CIAA tournament economic impact is over $50 million. But people forget, that they actually do play basketball during the week.

This year, the women’s side featured two heavily favored teams to reach the championship game. The Virginia Union Panthers were the #1 seed in the north and the Shaw Bears were the #1 seed in the south. The Panthers won their semifinal game over the #2 seed from the south Livingstone 93-63. They were led by #3 Kiana Johnson and her 41 points! You might want to get to know this young lady who was a transfer from Michigan State University. In the second semifinal game, the Bears played #2 seed Chowan from the north, who barely escaped in overtime 59-57 to Bowie State.  Verse Chowan, Shaw showed why they were 24-6 on the season. They jumped out to a 46-22 halftime lead and never allowed it go below 10 points. Kaula Jacks would lead the Bears to an 86-77 win. It wasn’t “high noon” but the shootout for the championship on Saturday had finally arrived. Virginia Union started the game on 10-3 run. Not to be out done, Shaw answered quickly with an 8-0 run to take the lead. This back and forth contest would continue until halftime with the Bears leading 30-28. Fast forwarding to the fourth quarter with the Bears up 64-60 with under three minutes in the game, 5’ 6” Kiana Johnson put the Panthers on her back. She hit a three pointer and was fouled with 2:43 left in the game. She missed the free throw, making it a one point game. With a minute left in the game, the Panthers scored to take the lead 65-64. No one was sitting down at this point. The Bears turned the ball over which led to Kiana Johnson shooting a “Steph Curry” three pointer to give the Panthers a 68-64 lead. The Bears answered quickly with a basket by Eboni Ross to trim the lead to two, with seven seconds left in the game. The Bears fouled Lady Walker who made both free throws to give the Panthers a 70-66 lead. The Bears tried a late three that missed, allowing Virginia Union to win their second CIAA championship in school history with a record of 25-2.

The men’s side would feature the #1 seed Virginia State Trojans from the north and the #1 seed Johnson C. Smith Golden Bulls from the south. Only the Trojans would make it to the championship game. They played #3 seed Bowie State from the north in the semifinals, who managed to scrap out a 73-71 overtime win over #2 seed St Augustine from the south.  Virginia State took care of business against Bowie State by winning 81-70. Defensive pressure on the ball was the reason for the victory. Hometown favorite Johnson C. Smith would take on #4 seed from the south Livingstone in the quarterfinals. This would end up being the best game of the entire tournament.  With 1:21 left in the game, the Livingstone Blue Bears held a 68-64 lead. The Bulls would battle back to tie the game at 68. Both teams would score to keep the game tied at 70 with six seconds remaining. That’s when Nasir Austin hit the “game-winning” shot at the buzzer. After review, it was determined that the ball was on his finger tips and was not counted. Travesty number one as the game now goes to overtime. With 49 seconds left, the Bulls foul Eric Dubose after a turnover, where he makes both shots to put the Bears up 85-83. The Bulls inbound the ball and race up the floor and Austin blocks the shot for the “game-winner”. After review, it was determined it was goal-tending. The game is now tied heading into double overtime. Travesty number two! Livingstone showed mental fortitude by keeping their composure and finally winning 97-91 in double overtime. As the two-time reigning CIAA champions, they would face #2 seed Virginia Union from the north. They were only up 72-69 with 34 seconds left in the game behind a three point shot by Daryl Trynham. The Bears showed they still had something left in the tank by winning 75-70. The championship game was now set between Virginia State and Livingstone. After two emotional games, the Bears ran out of gas verse the Trojans. The Trojans won 89-79 with a record of 22-5 to claim their first CIAA championship since going back-to-back in 1989 and 1988.

In the eleven years of the tournament being in Charlotte, an estimated $20 million have been donated to the institutions. Next year the CIAA tournament will be played February 20-25. I would encourage you to go and support the vendors, and not just party but actually attend the tournament – because they do play basketball.