PANTHERS DEFEAT FVSU; WIN SIAC TOURNEY

Coach Darrell Walker celebrates with his team and the CAU cheerleaders.

The Clark Atlanta University men’s basketball team continues to prove that they are a team that will not quit, no matter the circumstances.

Chuka Eneh hit the game winning three-pointer with eighteen seconds on the clock, as the Panthers defeated the Wildcats of Fort Valley State University, 64–62, at Crossplex Arena in Birmingham, Alabama. The win gave the Panthers their fifth overall SIAC tournament championship.

The Panthers entered the game against a Fort Valley State team that had a significant height advantage, and had momentum on their side, having won nine out of 10 of their last contests. This game would also prove difficult for the Panthers due to some controversial officiating calls throughout the contest.

The Wildcats would exploit their size advantage right away, scoring their first four baskets in the paint, and racing to a 14–5 lead. However, Tim Sanders would keep the Panthers close. His back-to-back made jumpers reduced the Wildcat lead to six, 19–25.

The Panthers would use a stifling half-court trap to surge ahead late in the first half. They would go on a 9–2 run, capped by another Sanders three-pointer, for a 29–27 lead. A dunk by FVSU’s Kris Bell would knot the halftime score at 29 apiece.

FSVU was the aggressor after the halftime break. Two quick jumps shots, followed by a lay-up by Jalen Crawford, allowed the Wildcats to reclaim the lead, 33–38. Lawrence Triplett would respond, hitting three jump shots and a pair of free throws to give CAU a 46–42 lead with 11:25 in the contest.

With Damien Davis already in foul trouble, he was called for his fifth foul with a little more than six minutes left in the game. The Panther crowd protested even more furiously when Triplett was also called for his fifth foul moments later, leaving the Panthers without the services of two of their better big men for the rest of the contest.

However, they were able to get it done defensively. The Wildcats did not connect on another basket until the :32 second mark in the game. That basket gave FSVU the lead, 61–62.

After a timeout, Anthony Williams advanced the ball past half court. After he beat his defender to the paint, he kicked the ball out to a wide open Eneh, who knocked down a huge three-pointer with 18 seconds to go in the game.

FVSU inbounded the ball with a little over five seconds remaining, but Crawford’s three-pointer at the buzzer was off.

Sanders finished the game with 16 points, followed by Williams and Triplett, who both scored 13. Tajai Johnson led the Panthers with seven rebounds.

Sanders was voted the SIAC Most Valuable Player of the Tournament. Coach Darrell Walker was awarded the SIAC Coach of the Tournament.

Despite questionable calls by the referees, Sanders would not allow himself or his team to be deterred. “This is the championship,” he said. “We knew we had to fight. We can’t complain about the refs; we just have gotta win. So that’s what we did.”

Winning the SIAC tournament secured a berth for the Panthers in the NCAA Division II Men’s National Tournament. They will begin the tournament in Huntsville, Alabama.