Steve Joyner Jr. delivered on his pledge to make J.C. Smith women’s basketball relevant again.

The Golden Bulls, the South Division’s top seed, wore down North No. 3 Virginia State 68-59 for the CIAA title Saturday at Spectrum Center, winning the school’s first championship since 2009 and earning an automatic berth in the Division II national tournament. As has been the case throughout the tournament, J.C. Smith’s (22-7) bench came up big, outscoring Virginia State’s reserves 47-14.

“I think our depth was the difference-maker,” said Joyner, who became the first person to earn a CIAA title as a player and coach and joined his dad Steve Sr. as the first relatives to win league titles as coaches. “I think they got tired in the second half because of the tempo we forced them to play, and that was the deciding factor.”

The best of the reserves was guard Asha Jordan, who scored 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting in addition to pulling down five rebounds. Forward Blaire Thomas, who was named tournament most valuable player, added 14 points and nine boards, while freshman Malia Rivers hit 3-of-4 three-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep the Golden Bulls in front.

“We have energy in the first five, but we’re pretty lethal in the post,” said Thomas, an Iowa State transfer. “Bringing me in as the sixth man, we can keep pounding the opposing team.”

J.C. Smith posted a 29-19 halftime advantage behind Jordan’s 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting and converting 10 Virginia State turnovers into 12 points. Nandi Taylor kept the 22-8 Trojans in contention by knocking down 4-of-8 shots for 14 points before intermission, including all three tries beyond the three-point arc. Even then, J.C. Smith’s 19-3 bench scoring advantage in the first half set the tone.

“We knew it was a game that was going to be a fight to the end,” Virginia State coach James Hill said. “We just had to minimize turnovers. We had a couple of bad turnovers here and there, but nobody expected us from Day 1. We were picked No. 4 (in preseason polling) and we … made it to the championship. I’m proud of them. They have no reason to bow their heads.”

Bowie State (16-14) extended a one-point halftime lead by outscoring Fayetteville State 41-34 in the second half of Saturday’s men’s championship to win 62-54.

“I’m just really proud of these guys,” said Bowie State head coach Darrell Brooks. “How we started our season, at one point we were 6 in the North. These guys never ever stopped believing in what we were doing. We had a couple of injuries and they have played through it all year. I’m proud of them, they did the work.”

Ahmaad Wilson led three Bulldogs in double digits with 20 points. Omari George and Enuoma Ebinum added 11 points each. Michael Briscoe led on the boards with eight rebounds and chipped in nine points.

Josh Bryant led Fayetteville (13-16) with 14 points and nine rebounds. Michael Tyson added 10 points and eight rebounds for the Broncos.

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