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Friday, June 14, 2024

Lincoln Lions claim 2024 CIAA Basketball Championship

Courtesy CIAA / March 8, 2024

Lincoln forward Ethan Garita (junior) goes in for a layup. He was named the Food Lion Men’s Championship MVP and finished the game with 15 points and four rebounds. Photo by Joe Daniels/Carolina Peacemaker.

Baltimore, MD. – Ethan Garita scored 15 points to help Lincoln University Lions win its first Food Lion Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Tournament championship in program history with a thrilling 54-51 victory over the Broncos of Fayetteville State before a roaring crowd at CFG Arena Saturday afternoon.

Lincoln was acknowledged as a champion in the official list of CIAA winners in 1915 with Howard and Hampton before the CIAA was officially formed.

With the victory, Lincoln also secures the CIAA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II tournament. Lincoln will learn its opponent and destination on Sunday, March 10 when the pairings are announced.

“Our guys just wanted it a little bit more,” Lincoln head coach Jason Armstrong said. “Our guys stayed focused and stayed in the moment. It was wonderful to see our fans be here with us this whole week and cheer us on. We came back this year and did what we wanted to do. Now, we get ready for the NCAA Tournament. Shout out to Fayetteville State. They battled to the end and never gave up.”

In an entertaining contest featuring seven lead changes and four ties, Bakir Cleveland added 13 points for the Lions, who won the battle of the benches, 16-3. Peter Sorber was a presence on both ends of the floor for Lincoln with nine points and four blocked shots.

Garita’s basket with two minutes, 15 remaining gave Lincoln the lead for good, 44-42. The Lions overcame a 40-35 deficit with 7:21 left by using a 12-2 burst capped by Chase Jackson’s 3-pointer that gave the Lions a 47-42 lead with 88 seconds remaining.

Caleb Simmons and Tairell Fletcher led Fayetteville State with 21 and 10 points, respectively. Kaleb Coleman finished with a game-high 12 rebounds.

Simmons made a 3-pointer with 25.4 seconds remaining to pull Fayetteville State to within, 49-47. The Broncos also had the ball trailing, 51-48, with 13.2 seconds left, but a potential game-tying 3-pointer was missed.

Fayetteville State led 21-20 at intermission behind an 18-11 rebounding advantage. Fayetteville never trailed in the first half. In its last two CIAA Tournament games, Fayetteville State held its opponents to an average of 19 points. Simmons had seven points in the opening 20 minutes to pace the Broncos. Lincoln scored 14 of its 20 first-half points in the paint.

“It was a great game,” Fayetteville State coach Luke Delesseo said. “Lincoln is an upcoming program and well coached. They have really good players and tough kids. As a fan, you couldn’t ask for anything better, even as a coach. It went down to the wire and down the stretch they made the plays. I was proud of our guys because we never stopped playing.”


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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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