Memorable Moments…Basketball Champions
Black College basketball came into the national arena with a explosion, led by the domination of Tennessee State’s first ever three consecutive NAIA championships. The NAIA provided the first platform for their exposure and quickly, other teams like Texas Southern, Grambling, Prairie View A&M and later Kentucky State fielded teams loaded with pro-caliber talent. After integration, they still flourished but eventually, the drain on talent saw a dramatic decline. Nevertheless, teams like Alcorn State led a resurgence of “upsets” against the dominant teams of their eras. This is a collection of the most memorable moments…
Tennessee State A&I: First Three-peat in the NAIA Tournament
William “Bill” Lucas coached the Central State, Ohio Marauders to their first NAIA National Tournament Championship in 1965. They repeated in 1968. Ken Wilburn, their stellar rebounding leader, led the Marauders to a 26-0 regular season record. They made their debut in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Invitational Basketball Tournament in 1965 and surprised everyone with a remarkable performance. They ran past Jacksonville, Fl, 78-57 in the opening round…knocked off Midwestern State, 75-61 in the second round and outlasted Ausburg College, 66-57 in the Elite Eight round and defeated Fairmont, 91-75 in the semi-finals. They finished a perfect season with a closeout of Oklahoma Baptist, 85-51 in the finals and a 30-0 record. Wilburn, 6-6 forward, led the NAIA in total rebounds (5 games, 90 rebounds…18.0 average per game) and was named tournament MVP. They ran past Jacksonville, Fl, 78-57 in the opening round…knocked off Midwestern State, 75-61 in the second round and outlasted Ausburg College, 66-57 in the Elite Eight round and defeated Fairmont, 91-75 in the semi-finals. They finished a perfect season with a closeout of Oklahoma Baptist, 85-51 in the finals and a 30-0 record. Wilburn, 6-6 forward, led the NAIA in total rebounds (5 games, 90 rebounds…18.0 average per game) and was named tournament MVP.
Winston-Salem State staked their claim to college basketball history when they won the 1967 NCAA Men’s Division II Basketball Tournament. The Rams were the first Black college team to win a NCAA championship.
The CIAA regular season title belong to the Rams after an impressive 30-1.
They ended up third in the CIAA Tournament behind North Carolina A&T and Howard University and ahead of Johnson C. Smith.
They were invited to play in the NCAA tournament. (Other Black college teams that made the playoffs were: Cheyney, South Carolina State, Tennessee State, Arkansas Pine Bluff and Lincoln,PA
Led by All-CIAA and All-America guard Earl Monroe, the Rams took the Regional title over Baldwin-Wallace, 91-76. They polished off Long Island University in a hotly-played game, 62-54 and breezed past a tough Kentucky Wesleyan team, 85-73 in the semi-finals.
In the finals, Monroe put on a show as they rallied past Southwestern Missouri State, 77-74. Monroe averaged an amazing 41.5 points in his
Southern University was the 13th seed in the West Region which meant they would be offered up to the no.4 seeded Georgia Tech Bulldogs in the first round of the 1993 NCAA Tournament. Ben Jobe had the Jaguars playing at a high level, averaging 97.9 points per game, and Georgia Tech was having one of those years when they were dominating their rivals, Duke University, North Carolina and the rest of the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference. The Jaguars showed early jitters as they fell behind by 15 and trailed 32-17 with eight minutes remaining before halftime.
Then 6-6 All-America forward Jervaughn Scales and 6-7 Leonard White played volleyball against the backboards as they battled Tech’s All-Americans Malcolm Mackey and James Forrest. With the game tied at 61, 6-2 point guard Terry Thomas (20 points) led Southern on a 15-2 run and Tech never recovered. Scales had a monster performance with 27 points, 18 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and three steals. The Jaguars dropped their second round game, 90-80 to George Washington Colonials, led by their high-scoring freshman guard Kwame Evans.
1993: Southern averaged 97.9 points…Hi: 157 points vs. Prairie View A&M…156 vs. Baptist Christian.
Dave Whitney & Alcorn State Near Misses…
Alcorn State had a breakout campaign in 1979 under head coach Dave Whitney, Sr. With their third straight SWAC championship on their resume, they finished the regular season with a 28-1 record and made their first National Invitational Tournament appearance, upsetting Mississippi State University, 80-78 in the first round.
They lost to Indiana, 73-69, and capped off the post season with a third place finish in the NAIA Invitational Tournament.
In the 1980 season, they dropped only one game – a encore with Mississippi State, 83-80 before running the table and finishing the regular season at 28-1.
The Braves became the first predominately black college to participate in the NCAA Division I National Basketball Tournament.. They defeated their first round opponent South Alabama, 70-62. but lost to LSU in second round, 98-88.
They represented the SWAC five more times in the NCAA and NIT tournaments:
1982 NCAA: They lost by 10 points to Houston in first round, 94-84 and posted a 22-8 record.
1983 NCAA: They defeated Xavier in opening round, 81-75 and lost to Georgetown in first round, 68-63
1984 NCAA: The Braves downed Houston Baptist in the opening round, 79-60 and gave No. 1 seed Kansas a scare in the first round, 57-56
1999 NIT: Braves lost to Stanford in the first round, 69-57
2002 NIT: They narrowly lost to Siena in the opening round, 81-77
Other Top Players
Eddie Archie, guard
Aaron Brandon, forward
Tommy Collier, center
Tommy James, forward
Dellie Johnson, forward
Alfred Milton, forward
Al Monroe, center
David Palmer, center
Larry Smith, forward
Dave Whitney, Jr., guard
Willie Norwood, forward
Julius Keye, forward
Levi Wyatt, center
James Fleming, forward
Joseph Martin, forward
Andrew Tatum, guard
Ronnie Smith, guard
James Horton, guard
Albert Irving, forward
Dwight Alexander, guard
Eddie Baker, center
E.J. Bell, guard
Walter Ned, center
Aaron King, forward
In 1972, head coach Lucious Mitchell had the perfect setup – two of the nation’s leading players and a bench full of excellent ballplayers from two previous NAIA National championships and was looking to add a third straight national title…(only his mentor and fellow Black College legend, John B. McLendon, Jr. and the Tennessee State Tigers had posted the first ever collegiate three-peat in the fifties). The Thorobreds began their championship odyssey in March 1970 by taking the 33rd annual NAIA Basketball Tournament led by the nation’s leading scorer Travis Grant and leading rebounder Elmore Smith. Grant set a single game scoring record with 60 points against Minot State, ND and added tournament records for most field goals made – 223 and most points –518, and is still the all-time leading scorer in NAIA tournament history. In 1971, the Thorobreds capped the 34th NAIA title and their second straight as they waltzed past St. Thomas, WI, 100-66 in the opening round and 73-59 over Central Washington, 106- in the second round. Three members of the Thorobreds were named to the All-Tourney team: Grant, Smith and guard Michael Bernard.
1980 Head coach Dave Robbins led Virginia Union (26-4) to their first NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship… the first white coach to lead a predominately-black college team to a national title. The Panthers defeated New York Tech, 80-74.
1992 Robbins and the Panthers –CIAA Champions (30-3) won the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship, led by All-CIAA guard Warren Peebles and All-CIAA/All-American Derrick Johnson, MVP. They downed Bridgeport, 100-75 MVP: Derrick Johnson
1996 Robbins and the Panthers won the inaugural John B. McLendon, Jr. Men’s Basketball Invitational Championship in Atlanta City, New Jersey. They defeated Claflin College, 84-69 in the finals.
2005 The Panthers (30-4) captured their third NCAA National Championship, led by Brad Byerson, Darius Hargrove and Duane Crockett and Chris Greene. They beat Bryant College, 63-58 for the title. MVP: Antwan Walton .
They started the season with non-conference blowout losses to Division I power-house Oklahoma (88-64) and Nebraska (88-72) and ended as the top seed in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament.
The Coppin State Eagles earned an automatic berth in the NCAA Regionals after a 81-74 win over no.3 seed North Carolina A&T in the MEAC finals.
They were the no. 15 seed (30-point underdogs) going up against no.2 seed South Carolina in the first round of the NCAA playoffs.
Despite their big advantage, South Carolina only led by seven (47-40) with 13 minutes left before collapsing and becoming just the third no. 2 seed to lose a first-round game.
The Eagles took a 55-54 lead with less than seven minutes to go and put the Gamecocks away when a three point shot as the shot clock expired.
It gave the Eagles a 9-point lead with less than two minutes left in the game…
Junior guard Antoine Brockington, senior center Terquin Mott and senior guard Reggie Welch had held the Gamecocks high-scoring guard trio – Larry Davis, P.J. Mckie and Melvin Watson
to a combined 31 points.
Eagles reserved guard Danny Singletary scored all but four of his game-high 22 points in the second half and led the team to an unbelievable 13-point upset of the no. 2 seed, which was touted by some to win it all.
Coppin State almost pulled off another upset, narrowly lost to Texas in the second round, 52-51.
It was the standard matchup – #15 vs. #2 Iowa State in then 2001 NCAA first Round Regional Playoffs. The Hampton Pirates, first time out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, was facing All-Americans and future NBA first round draft picks Marcus Fizer and Jamal Tinsley.
Under head coach Steve Merfeld, the Pirates breezed through the MEAC tournament with victories over Morgan State, 76-64; Norfolk State, 94-67 and 70-53 over South Carolina State in the finals.
Senior forward Tarvis Williams was named Regional Most Valuable Player.
Iowa State, led by point guard Tinsley, had come within one game of the Final Four the previous season. Hampton was making it’s first appearance in the NCAA March Madness. The Pirates started off a little shaky but only trailed by 11 points in the second half when they began to close the gap behind forward Williams and David Johnson, who put back a missed layup that tied the game.
It was a heart stopping climax as Williams knocked down a short jumper that gave Hampton a 58-57 win as time was winding down. The Cyclones had one last gasp, but Tinsley missed a layup with 1.2 seconds and that set off a wild celebration for the Pirates faithful.
Norfolk State pulled off one of two upsets in the 2012 NCAA tournament
It was the third time a historically black college pulled a major upset in the opening round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament (the other were Coppin State over South Carolina in 1997 and Hampton over Iowa State in 2001).
In their first ever NCAA tournament appearance, the Norfolk State Spartans made it count by defeating no. 1 seed Missouri, 86-84.
All-MEAC forward Kyle O’Quinn led all scorers with 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. He scored the decisive basket on an old fashioned three-point play with 34.9 seconds left and the score tied 81 all. Missouri was a 21-point favorite, but had to battle back all game long. The Spartans took advantage of Mizzou’s lax defense to find open spots on the floor and get easy looks at the basket and shot an identical 53 per cent from the field and three –point range. The Tigers shot also shot 52 per cent from the floor but every time Mizzou’s head coach Frank Haith’s team took a lead, it could not stop the Pirates on the defensive end of the floor.
Norfolk State hung around with easy baskets underneath, then surged to a late lead because of poor perimeter defense. After O’Quinn put the Spartans ahead by four points after two successful free throws, the Tigers clawed back behind guard Phil Pressy (20 points) and his long three pointer cut the Spartans lead to 85-84. Norfolk State’s Rodney McCauley missed the second of two free throws with eight seconds remaining, but O’Quinn forced a crucial jump ball with the arrow favoring the Spartans. After O’Quinn put the Spartans ahead by four points after two successful free throws, the Tigers clawed back behind guard Phil Pressy (20 points) and his long three pointer cut the Spartans lead to 85-84. Norfolk State’s Rodney McCauley missed the second of two free throws with eight seconds remaining, but O’Quinn forced a crucial jump ball with the arrow favoring the Spartans.
He missed two ensuing free throws that would have sealed the victory, but with 2.0 seconds remaining, Pressy’s desperation three-pointer clanged off the back rim and doomed the Tigers comeback.
NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL Eagles NCAA Div. II 1989 Mike Bernard knew a little something about winning championships: he was a starting guard on a couple of Kentucky State’s three consecutive championship teams. Led All-Tournament Eagles Miles Clark, Antoine Sifford and Dominque Stephens, they hung a banner from the 1989 NCAA Div. II Tournament. The 28-4 Eagles were no. 1 in scoring defense, but when they beat Cal Poly-Pomona, 73-46…the 27-point margin of victory set a new NCAA championship game record that still stands today.
Virginia Union Lady Pantherettes NCAA Div. II 1983
UDC NCAA Div. II 1982 The Firebirds were one of the hottest teams in the early 80s under flamboyant head coach Wil Jones. He had one of the best tandems in college basketball in 7-0 center Earl Jones and flashy point guard Michael Britt. They captured the 1982 Div. II tournament title with a 76-63 win over Florida Southern. They fell short in their quest to repeat the next year after another great regular season.
Jackson State Lady Tigers MAIAW 1979 Women’s collegiate basketball begin to make the big time in the 1970s. The LadyTigers of Jackson State went 33-3 in the 1979-80 season and claimed the first MAIAW championship. Head coach Sadie Magee’s team was led by a powerful front line in their outstanding center Stephanie Dorsey (6-1 1/2), Pam McDonald, hot shooting Mary Fuller (left)and the Freeman sisters, Gloria and Eva Freeman.
Cheyney State NCAA Div. II 1978 John Chaney broke into the national basketball scene when he led tiny Cheyney State College to it’s first and only Division II championship. the Bears went 26-2 overall after capturing the tournament title with a 47-40 victory over Wisconsin-Green Bay. Andrew Fields was named the Most Outstanding Player.
Morgan State NCAA Div. II 1974 Morgan State was a force to reckon with in the 70s under head coach Nat Frazier. Led by their 7-0 All-American center Marvin Webster, they came into the NCAA Div. II tournament out of the CIAA along with powerful Norfolk State. Other Black colleges in the tournament were: Tennessee State (who lost to state rival Fisk, 65-54 in the first round of the Regionals. The Bears ended up in the finals and stopped favorite Southwest Missouri State, 67-52 to capture their first national banner.