Salisbury will recognize Blue Bears today; parade Wednesday

SALISBURY — The Livingstone College men’s basketball team will be recognized this afternoon by Salisbury Mayor Paul B. Woodson Jr. and City Council members for its historic CIAA Championship win — the first in school history.

The Blue Bears captured the CIAA Championship Saturday night by defeating Winston-Salem State University 83-68 in Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.

Woodson will issue a proclamation during today’s 4 p.m. City Council meeting. Livingstone’s men’s basketball team, coaches and college officials will attend.

“We’re grateful the mayor has chosen to recognize Livingstone College for its historic win,” said President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins Sr. “Our players and coaches have worked hard this year to accomplish so much — both on and off the court.

“They went to Charlotte and put together three strong victories to bring Livingstone College its first CIAA Championship and also studied and worked hard enough to have the highest grade-point average among the 12 men’s CIAA teams.

“It can be easy for student-athletes to get caught up in athletics and forget why they’re in college, but I’m so proud our coaches and players never lost sight of that. And I’m truly proud to finally be able to say that Livingstone College is the CIAA Champion.”

To commemorate the historic win, which came exactly one week after senior point guard Mark Thomas of Saginaw, Mich., was named CIAA Player of the Year — another first in school history — Livingstone is having a parade beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Soldiers Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, 306 N. Church St.

The parade route will go through downtown Salisbury and end at the Livingstone College campus, where Jenkins will host a celebration and barbecue for the team inside Trent Gymnasium.

“Last year our men’s team made it to the finals of the CIAA Tournament but came up short to Bowie State University,” Jenkins said. “And two years before that we lost a close one in the finals to Shaw University.

“The losses hurt, but all year long I and others affiliated with Livingstone College have had a hunch that this was our year, our time. Last weekend in Charlotte our players proved us right, so on Wednesday we’re going to show them our appreciation.”

That Livingstone won the CIAA wasn’t a total surprise. The Blue Bears entered the tournament as serious contenders after having won the Southern Division of the CIAA for the second, consecutive season – another first in school history. The Blue Bears had a two-round bye and opened play at 1 p.m. Thursday against St. Augustine’s University. After defeating them, Livingstone defeated Fayetteville State University in the semi-finals Friday night before beating Winston-Salem State University for the title on Saturday.

Thomas, who in addition to being named CIAA Player of the Year was also named Tournament MVP, scored 23 points for the Blue Bears in the championship game. Senior shooting guard Jody Hill of Detroit scored 21, and junior forward Eric Mayo of Shelby, N.C., grabbed 17 rebounds. Thomas, Hill and Emarri Bailey of Jacksonville, Fla., were named to the All-CIAA Team.

Livingstone’s victory in the conference championship finals is the school’s first in the event’s 69-year history. Monday afternoon it was announced that the CIAA Tournament will remain in Charlotte for the next six years, and in 2016, the CIAA will move its headquarters to the Queen City.

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