Bears have first dance

morgan state 83 norfolk state 69

Holmes, Bolden lead team to MEAC title, NCAA bid

March 15, 2009|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -Validations were everywhere last night for Morgan State.

For Jermaine "Itchy" Bolden, the 5-foot-8 point guard who showed he could run an offense as well as score this season.

For Marquise Kately, the San Francisco native who left the University of California three years ago to join a ragtag mid-major program that had been dormant for 30 years.

And for Todd Bozeman - perhaps especially for the Morgan coach - who resurrected a program and his career with a remarkable three-year run that produced two Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular-season titles and, now, the school's first NCAA Division I tournament bid.

Morgan's 83-69 rout of Norfolk State in the MEAC final at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum ushered in a new era of basketball on the Hilltop, an era that no one could have imagined when Bozeman arrived on campus in 2006.

Banned by the NCAA for 10 years for paying a recruit at Cal, Bozeman made the most of his opportunity to coach again. When the final seconds counted down last night, tears streamed down his face as he buried himself in hugs with coaches and players. He also shared a long hug with his wife, TeLethea.

"Personally, it's been a long, long road back for me," Bozeman said.

Then, borrowing the lyrics of a song by rapper Jay-Z, he added, "I'm sorry, and I'm back."

The Bears (23-11) are going dancing, and they'll find out today - when NCAA seedings are announced - whom their partner is.

Reggie Holmes again led Morgan with 20 points, and Bolden scored 18, but the Bears did much of the damage on the inside. Kevin Thompson (Walbrook) awoke for 15 points and 11 rebounds, dominating the inside with Kately, who had 16 points and seven rebounds.

"This is one of the best things I've had happen in my life," Kately said. "I came [to Baltimore] to help rebuild the program, and it happened so fast. We've come a long way."

Bolden took a round-about trip to the MEAC title. A product of Douglass, he went to community college in Texas but came home to help revive Morgan. He showed up in Winston-Salem with a chip on his shoulder.

"I didn't make All-MEAC," he said while the celebration swirled around him. "I took that to heart. I wanted to prove I was the best point guard in the conference."

He used the conference tournament as a platform, scoring 47 points and shooting 15-for-32 over three games.

For Holmes (St. Frances), the victory healed the hurt from last year's loss to Coppin State in the tournament final. Bozeman had to pick a sobbing Holmes off the court in Raleigh after that game. That was the incentive for Holmes.

"I told myself, I don't want to cry anymore," he said. "I said, 'I'm not crying.' "

Bozeman wiped away his tears long enough to say he expected to be back coaching at Morgan next season. His three-year contract expires at the end of this season.

"I expect to be back, and I expect the team to be even better," he said. "That's the goal."

His wife knew better than anyone else what last night meant to Bozeman.

"It means everything," she said. "He has talked about the possibility of this moment, and if it were to happen, the only thing missing is the fact his father was not here to be with him."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.