The Claflin University took the 2018 SIAC Men’s tournament crown by defeating Clark Atlanta University 69-61 in the championship game. It was a wire-to-wire win for Claflin, who jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the early going and never looked back, leading by as much as 13 in the first half. Claflin would take a 35-22 lead into the half.
An Akil Douglas for CAU three-point play lead off the scoring in the second half, to cut the lead to 10 at 35-25. Claflin would respond with four straight point to push their advantage to 14 points at 39-25 with 18:55 to go in the half. Even with the subsequent four-plus minute span that saw Clark score 9 of the game’s next 11 points would only close the gap to nine points.
CAU would continue to scrap and would close to within four with 4:28 to go , however that would be closest they would draw to Claflin and Tyler Thompson jumper would increase the lead to six.
Claflin came up big at the free throw line to help close things out as they went a perfect eight-of-eight for the line in the final two minutes of the game.
Claflin Head Coach Ricky Jackson, who named the tournament’s mostly outstanding coach had this to say about his ballclub:
I thought today we really played hard from start to finish. I actually really didn’t have much to say, they knew what needed to be done, they set the goal to win this Championship and they met the goal — they did what needed to be done.
With his 18 points and 10 rebounds, Jaleel Charles led the way for Claflin. Charles also was named the Tournament MVP. Benjamin “Tre” Williams contributed 13 and Triston Thompson chipped in with 11, and was also named to the All-Tournament Team, for the Panthers who finished the campaign 25-6, their highest win total since the 2008-09 season.
Akil Douglas CAU with 14, while Jalen Mitchell and Damien Davis each netted 12 points.
Next for Claflin is the NCAA Division II Regional scheduled for March 10-13.