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Fayetteville State moves to women's final
Broncos take out Virginia Union in semifinal
Published Friday, March 1, 2013 10:44 pm
by Staff Reports

Fayetteville State’s version of Shaq led the Broncos to the CIAA tournament women's final.


Shuanda Ashford, whose is nicknamed after former NBA great Shaquille O'Neal, poured in 23 points and snatched 10 rebounds in a 71-57 victory over Virginia Union. The Broncos (24-4 overall), the Southern Division champs and top division seed, reached their seventh CIAA finals in school history and the second under coach Eva Patterson-Heath. Her squad won it all in 2010. The Broncos are shooting for their fourth league crown.


FSU reached the CIAA championship game on their inside power and transition game. The Panthers (13-14), the No. 2 seed in the North Division, could not stop Ashford, a 6-1 all-CIAA center, despite doubling down on her in a zone defense. Despite the defensive focus on her, Ashford still muscled her way to the basket for easy layups. She was 10 of 16 from the floor.


"In the paint, it's always a battle," Ashford said. "My teammates kept finding the will to get me the ball and I was trying to find the will to put the ball in the basket."


Meanwhile, her frontcourt teammate Tierra Coleman took advantage of attention on Ashford on the weak side of the basket to produce a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds. Coleman, the Food Lion MVP of the game, was perfect offensively, making 7-of-7 field goal attempts and 2 of 2 free-throw attempts. Together, the frontcourt duo combined for 39 points and 22 rebounds. Coleman carried the Broncos when Ashford went out briefly after falling out of bounds under the basket in the second half.


"Shuanda went diving for a basketball and ended up clearing out a row of chairs and kind of got a stinger in her elbow," Patterson-Heath said. "So she was off a little bit, but her sister teammate, Tierra Coleman stepped up and played a really big game. She grabbed some offensive rebounds. She was 100 percent from the floor and 100 percent from the free throw line and that's just a testament of her desire to play [on Saturday]. And then once Shuanda recovered, she was just relentless in the paint, again a testament of her desire to play for a championship."


Ashford had 12 points and seven rebounds and Coleman, a 6-1 senior, added 10 points and five rebounds in the second half to spark the Broncos, who pulled away after leading 31-30 at halftime. The two teamed together on a bucket when the Panthers sliced a 14-point deficit to six in the closing minutes. Coleman dumped a pass to Ashford for a three-point play to give the Broncos a 64-55 lead with 2:29 left in the game. Led by the senior duo, FSU held a 48-34 advantage in inside points.


The Broncos iced the game when Kristen Hanzer, the CIAA player of the year, converted a three-point play on a full-court drive after the Lady Panthers scored. She made the score 67-57 with two minutes remaining.



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