By Greg Goings
Sports Information Director
CHESAPEAKE, Va. – Bowie State University capped a dominant three-day run in the CIAA Bowling Championship with a conference title at AMF Western Branch Lanes on March 22.
Bowie State defeated defending champion Virginia State University 4-1 in the finals to finish unbeaten in four bracket play matches. Virginia State needed two wins for its second straight crown, but Bowie State erased any thoughts of the tournament heading to a second game.
Led by Co-Most Valuable Bowlers Ambrianna Bankston and Shayla Lightfoot, Bowie State won the last three games in the championship match to earn its fifth CIAA title, including its third in six seasons. After Virginia State won game two 173-165 to even the match at 1-1, Bowie State captured the next three games 149-138, 183-165 and 147-134 for the victory. The game one score was 169-142 Bowie State.
Head Coach Kenneth Scott of Bowie State says the score is not indicative of how tough the match was against Virginia State, which reached the final round for the fourth consecutive year.
"When we play Virginia State, it is always a battle," Scott said. "We bring our A game and they bring their A game. It is a matter who executes."
As it turned out, the Lady Bulldogs were the team which threw the most strikes and spares.
"It was all about execution," Scott said. "The girls knew that if they hit their target and pick up spares, and execute the way they were supposed to, that everything would take care of itself."
The championship match reflected how well the Lady Bulldogs bowled in the tournament. They were virtually unchallenged over the weekend.
Bowie State was the only team to knock down more than 4,000 pins in preliminary team matches on Friday. When preliminary Baker match play concluded Saturday morning, the Lady Bulldogs earned the top seed in bracket play with a 219-total pin count lead over Virginia State.
Bowie State breezed through its bracket play matches, needing only four matches to claim the conference championship. The Lady Bulldogs defeated No. 8 seed Virginia Union University 4-1 to advance to the winner's bracket where they beat No. 6 seed Shaw University 4-0 and No. 4 seed Fayetteville State University 4-1.
The Lady Bulldogs were well rested while No. 2 seed Virginia State had to work its way to the finals through the elimination bracket after losing 4-0 to Fayetteville State in the winner's bracket. The championship round was the sixth match for Virginia State in bracket play.
That Bowie State won the CIAA title was fitting. The Lady Bulldogs won most of the top league honors during the CIAA Bowling Awards Ceremony on Saturday including Bowler of the Year (Lightfoot), Rookie of the Year (Sierra Davis) and Coach of the Year (Scott). They also won the CIAA Bowling Highest Grade Point Average Award and received their trophy for winning the Northern Division after finishing the regular season with only one conference loss. Scott says the accolades are the result of the work his team has put in since the offseason.
"At the beginning of the year, all the girls set up individual and team goals," Scott said. "They worked on them and stayed committed to them. They had outside instructors coaching them over the summer. When we didn't practice, they went to the lanes and practiced on their own. They were dedicated and wanted to make sure that the seniors went out as winners.
"I didn't realize they were as special as they were until midseason," Scott added. "That's when they started to click and I could actually see where they were trying to go. One of the goals was to go undefeated in the regular season and they came up one game short on that, but they reached the rest of them."
Scott was a little concerned about his team after the awards ceremony, but the Lady Bulldogs re-focused on the task at hand.
"I was a little nervous that the awards would go to their heads and they would lose their focus and concentration," Scott said. "We gave them their 15 minutes of celebration and then we put the trophies away. I told them it was day one [of the tournament] and we were starting from scratch."
The Lady Bulldogs picked up right where they left off in the regular season.
"It was something we worked for since the beginning of the season," said Lightfoot, a senior. "We came into the tournament and we weren't losing anything. It is a great feeling to go out with a championship."
Each Bowie State coach and team member received a trophy after winning the title. The team members are Lightfoot, Ambrianna Bankston, Keyandra Bankston, Makyra Bankston, Davis, Ashley Wade and Shannon Weaver. The assistant coaches are Andrew Campbell, Laverne Campbell and Denard Bankston.
The All-CIAA Tournament team consists of Brittany Rowe of Johnson C. Smith, Davis of Bowie State, Nicole Sciortino of Saint Augustine's, Brooke Roberts of Elizabeth City State and Rebecca Clements of Virginia State.