CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Fayetteville State coach Eva Patterson-Heath’s pregame inspirational writings are becoming legend.
The first-year head coach has had everything from bible verses to quotes from famous philosophers in her team’s locker room.
Prior to Fayetteville State’s CIAA Championship game with Bowie State, the Broncos’ head coach took a simpler route.
“I told them that we were the best team in the CIAA,” she said.
After its 66-50 win over Bowie State, Patterson-Heath’s opinion is no longer up for debate.
L’oreal Price scored a season-high 22 points and helped FSU (20-9) to the third CIAA title in school history and first since 2001.
“This is the greatest feeling in the world,” said Price. “I feel like I’m on Cloud 9. I feel like I’m nervous and the game is already over. I’m so proud of my teammates and everybody for just coming through. Nobody thought we were going to be here tonight.”
The Broncos, who will advance to the NCAA Division II tournament for the sixth time, held BSU (18-8) to 24.3 percent shooting from the field.
“We didn’t shoot the basketball well,” Bulldogs’ head coach Donna Polk said. “We got outrebounded 60-41 and I think that’s the ballgame. We didn’t turn the ball over that much, we just did not do it on the offensive side of the ball.”
Bianca Lee led BSU with a game-high 24 points and also had a team-high eight rebounds. Lakisha Walker added seven points and seven rebounds.
“We were here last year and knew this feeling coming into the game,” Lee said. “We should’ve learned from last year and not wanted this feeling. The team that comes out with the least mistakes, offensively and defensively, wins.”
Tiffany Haywood, who had six points and 15 rebounds, was named the tournament’s MVP. Deja Middleton, Price and Russell were named to the All-Tournament team. Russell had 11 points, five rebounds and three assists while Middleton tallied four points, 12 rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Mercedes Humphries got a surprise start for the Broncos and didn’t disappoint. The junior guard continued her hot-shooting during the tournament and scored 15 points, including four 3-pointers.
“I left everything on the court,” she said. “I kept shooting because my teammates told me to. They stood behind me and said ‘keep shooting, keep shooting.’ So, I kept shooting.”
FSU led by three at halftime and by as much as 19 in the second half.
“Coach said it’s a new half and it’s 0-0,” Price said of Patterson-Heath’s halftime message. “We had to come out with fire because they were going to push-up on us. We just took it to them even harder than they thought they were going to take it at us.”
Patterson-Heath said she wasn’t surprised by the outcome.
“These young ladies posses a desire,” Patterson-Heath said. “I could see it on their faces and I could hear it in their voices as they spoke to each other. They came out every game and gave us their best