CHARLOTTE, N.C. (March 1) – Saint Augustine’s University battled toe-to-toe with nationally-ranked Virginia State University in Wednesday’s CIAA Tournament men’s basketball quarterfinals at Bojangles’ Coliseum.
The Falcons nearly pulled out the win, but the Trojans eked out a 49-45 victory to advance to the tourney’s semifinals. The loss ended the season for the Falcons, but not before putting a scare into the 15th-ranked Trojans, the Northern Division champions, in the defensive contest.
“Tonight is what basketball is all about, especially tournament basketball,” Falcons’ Head Coach MarQus Johnson said. “Unfortunately, we came out on the short end of the stick, but I give credit to my guys. We struggled in the first half but fought back.”
Coach Johnson’s squad battled back from cold shooting in the first half to take its first lead of the game, 40-39, on a three-pointer by All-CIAA guard Tyre Gathright (Jr./Wilmington, NC), who scored 12 of his game-high 17 points in the second half. The Trojans surged back in front 46-42 but Gathright responded with a three-pointer as he was fouled to trim the margin to one. He missed the free throw, but the Falcons regained possession after the Trojans were whistled for a travel.
The Falcons, the No. 4 Southern Division seed, called timeout with just under a minute left, but a travel call gave possession back to the Trojans, who made two free throws for a 48-45 lead with 35 seconds remaining. Needing a three to tie, the Falcons misfired on a contested shot behind the arc, and the Trojans made one of two free throws with five seconds left for the win.
“Virginia State made some plays down the stretch that we couldn’t overcome,” Johnson said. “My hat goes off to Virginia State, but I am proud of my guys. I wouldn’t trade them for anyone.”
Three-time All-CIAA forward Quincy January (Sr./Atlanta, GA) finished his spectacular collegiate career with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The double-double was the 50th in the career of the three-time CIAA Defensive Player of the Year, who tallied over 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds in his four seasons with the Falcons.
The careers of guards Kasey Bryant (Sr./Raleigh, NC) and Kenneth Collins (Sr./Clayton, NC) also came to a close. The trio, along with Gathright, carried the Falcons (14-15 overall) in most games.
“They played well for me and worked hard,” Johnson said about his seniors. “I told them in the locker room that they will always be a part of the Falcon family. Quincy and I came in together. Actually, he was my first recruit. He’s like an older son to me. He’s had a great career and hopefully can play professionally somewhere. All three of them will get their degrees in May.”
Collins gave the Falcons the offensive firepower they missed after shooting 10.5 percent as a team in the first half. He scored the team’s first 10 points to bring the Falcons within 27-23 around the 10-minute mark in the second half.
The senior guard jumpstarted the Falcons, who ended up making 45.8 percent of their shots in the second half. They outscored the Trojans 32-30 in the final 20 minutes as they stayed in contention down the stretch.
“My teammates got me involved and put me in the right position to score,” said Collins, who scored 11 points off the bench. “I tried to find my own shot in the first half, but guys like Kasey and Craig [McDaniel (Jr./Holly Springs, NC)] got me going in the second half.”
The game was a low-scoring affair which was no surprise, given the Trojans and Falcons rank first and second, respectively, in the CIAA in points allowed. But Coach Johnson didn’t expect to see his Falcons shoot 10.5 percent as neither team reach the 20-point mark in the first half. Both teams were frigid as the Trojans carried a 19-13 lead into halftime. The Falcons eventually thawed out but the Trojans made enough plays in the second half to escape with the victory.
The loss to the Trojans was the first for the Falcons in their last three meetings. Although the Trojans (24-3 overall), the No. 1 Northern Division seed, are atop the Atlantic Region rankings this week, the Falcons were confident after winning their only regular-season matchup, 73-66, at home on Dec. 14, 2017.
Coach Johnson and the Falcons always look forward to facing the Trojans, led by former Falcons’ coach Lonnie Blow, Jr. Johnson was an assistant under Blow when the Falcons captured the 2010 CIAA title.
“We are two good teams who know each other pretty well,” Johnson said. “Blow and I go back a ways. It is always enjoyable to compete against his teams.”
January will miss the fierce rivalries against the Trojans and other CIAA schools in addition to the camaraderie he developed with his teammates and coaches during his career.
“I will really miss these guys,” January said. “We have gotten so close they are like family. It hurts that we couldn’t come out with a victory, but I feel like we had a good season.”
–– Office of Sports Information