|Record-setting homecoming for Virginia Union's Shareka McNeill|
|Harding alum sets CIAA mark for tourney points|
|Published Saturday, March 2, 2019 5:46 pm|
Shareka McNeill made CIAA tournament history.
The Virginia Union sophomore all-conference guard broke the tournament record for total points with 134 as the Panthers beat Fayetteville State (21-8) 74-41 in the finals at Spectrum Center. McNeill scored 37 points in the championship, 38 points in the semifinals and 59 points in the quarterfinals, which tied the league record for points in a tournament game.
“From the bench, just seeing her, it’s very powerful,” said Sharkea’s twin sister Shameka McNeill, also a sophomore guard for the Panthers (27-2). “I like how she was just playing her game. She was very patient. I liked seeing her doing her thing out there. Felt like I was out there.”
The Charlotte natives joined the Panthers from Harding University High. Virginia Union coach AnnMarie Gilbert was encouraged to take a look at the duo by their high school coach during a CIAA Day of Service event.
“When I first saw them step into the gym and play with us, I’m like, ‘these girls are fast,’” said junior center/forward Jasmine Carter, who scored 18 points and had 14 boards in the final. “They can shoot. They can score. They can do anything. Together they are inseparable. That’s all of us. Nobody can touch us. Period. We have this sisterhood to where we’re one. I feel like I’m a twin—we’re triplets.”
Said Gilbert: “[Carter] used to be the fastest player on the team until they arrived.”
Gilbert is not surprised by Shareka’s success.
“I’ve been waiting on this,” Gilbert said. “I’ve known that this is possible. Just trying to stretch her as far as I can. I noticed just the first year that I coached her she just had some amazing ability within her. I’m going to try to tap into every ounce of it before she graduates, but this is something the world is seeing [as] new. I watch this in practice on a daily basis.”
Said Shareka: “I did not expect this, to be honest, with me playing like this in this tournament this year. It’s just a feeling of me being in Charlotte because I’m from Charlotte. It’s just amazing to play in front of my friends and my family.”
Virginia Union won its third conference championship in four seasons. Not since 1981-82 have they produced consecutive titles. The Panthers, who are ranked No. 1 in the Atlantic region, secured an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament with the CIAA title.
“It feels great,” Gilbert said. “Wondering why we didn’t get the fourth one, however, I’m real pleased, because it lets you know that what you’re doing is purposeful. God gives us a purpose. I’m inspired to work with young people, and the young people I have had a chance to coach, I’ve coached some really good guards, and some really dynamic players. I’m just real honored.”
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