Clayton State Ends Shaw's Cinderella NCAA Run
(Saint Joseph, MO) - They never wore glass slippers - more like well-worn steel-toed work boots - but Shaw remained the Cinderella of this year's NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Tournament until Clayton State knocked them out of the dance by beating the Lady Bears 63-46 in the national semi-final.
Shaw was hamstrung by poor shooting and a plague of turnovers, often when trying to push the ball inside.
"We didn't play well tonight," said Shaw Head Coach Jacques Curtis. "Some of that had to do with them and some of that had to do with us. Every time we had a chance to make a run, we would have a turnover or something that just kept letting it get away.
"When we took the lead by one, we thought we had something," he continued. "But we let it get away."
The Lady Bears took a lead with 15:58 left in the game when Demaria Liles drained two free throws to give Shaw a 34-33 lead.
But the Lakers ran off eight straight points, building a 41-34 lead. The Lady Bears never got within five after that point.
The game started painfully slowly for the Lady Bears as they come out of the gate missing their first 16 shots. The Lady Bears' strong defense, though, kept them in the game. When Liles finally hit a bucket for Shaw with nine minutes gone in the game, the Lady Bears only trailed 11-4.
Shaw did not appear to fall prey to Clayton State's vaunted press, moving the ball across half court easily. But Shaw could not hit shots - no matter where on the court they took them. In the first half alone, the Lady Bears hit only three of nine layups they attempted.
Shaw's leading scorer, Kyria Buford, never got on track, hitting only two of 16 - all but two of those attempts well inside the three-point line.
"For myself, I wouldn't say it was the defense or the other team," said Buford. "It was just me. I was rushing my shot a lot of the time and trying to stay away from contact. It was just me."
As a team, the Lady Bears hit only 24.6 percent from the field, and 25 percent from beyond the arc. Shaw had 29 turnovers on the game, but outrebounded the Lakers 46-41.
Liles finished her brief Shaw career with her tenth double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Aslea Williams had 11 points and nine rebounds. The Lady Bears finished their season with a 25-12 record.
For the Lakers, Kayla Mobley led the way with 13 points, while Renee Jackson had ten. Tanisha Woodard led Clayton State with nine rebounds and four assists. The Lakers are 34-1 and will play in the national championship game on Friday.
By the end of the evening, Curtis had begun to look toward next year. This year's team had reeled off 11 straight victories coming into the night, earning a spot in the Final Four after defeating Metro State Tuesday night. This was Shaw's first trip to the Final Four after two visits to the Elite Eight.
"In the past the bar was the Elite Eight because we had been there before, back-to-back, so now this team has set the bar as a Final Four participant," said Curtis. "The team that's coming back has a lot of work to do and commitment to get to this point."
Buford summed up the season and their post-season run. "A lot of people overlooked us - from the CIAA to here. A lot of people thought we deserved the eighth seed, but then we started beating everybody. Then they realized we're not an eighth seed. We have a lot of talent.
"It was fun," she continued. "Fun to play with the team this year. Hopefully next year, we'll be able to make the finals."
Photos: Aslea Williams (left) and Demaria Liles (right) were the only two Lady Bears in double figures in the loss.