GREENSOBORO – North Carolina A&T center Aprill McRae got Savannah State’s bigs in early foul trouble and her backup Eboni Ross finished off the job as the A&T women’s basketball team was able to joyfully celebrate Tracy King and DeAndra Davis on Senior Day with a 73-61 win Saturday afternoon at Corbett Sports Center.
McRae finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. Ross added 11 points and 10 boards, while Debbie Smith came off the bench to score 16. A&T (22-4, 12-2 MEAC) has now won eight in a row and look poised to wrap up the No. 2 seed in the MEAC tournament if it wins over S.C. State on Monday.
“It’s good to see Eboni and Aprill are playing up to the level we expected going into the season,” said A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson. “Our game plan was to expose their inside game, attack and get (center Tiyonda Davis) in foul trouble to the point where they would have to play small ball.”
Everything went so according to plan, the Tigers had two post players – Davis and Charmaine Green – pick up four fouls apiece in the first half. McRae took advantage of the free throws and the size advantage by scoring 14 first-half points on 10-forf-14 shooting from the free throw line. McRae scored eight of A&T’s nine points during a 9-0 run that gave the Aggies a 37-28 lead with 29 seconds remaining in the first half.
“Coach was trying to win the game,” said Robinson. “He felt with the momentum that they had, he didn’t want to change lineups.”
With the Tigers post players sidelined and their guards struggling from the perimeter, A&T continued to grow its lead in the second half. King’s steal and layup with 7 ½ minutes to go gave the Aggies a 63-50 lead. A Ross rebound and pass ahead led to a Smith layup. After a free throw from Greene, A&T took its biggest lead as Ariel Bursey whipped in a pass to Davis for a 67-51 advantage with 4:52 to play.
The Tigers rallied as Kenyata Hendrix’s 3-pointer capped off a 10-2 Tiger run to cut A&T’s lead to 67-61 with 1:42 to play. The Tigers (15-13, 8-6 MEAC) were just 3-for-14 from 3-point range and 22-for-66 from the floor. Ross slowed the rally by hitting three out of four free throws down the stretch to seal the win on a special night for Davis and King.
Davis had nine points and seven rebounds on 4-for-6 shooting.
“When I think about DD, I think back to this summer,” said Robinson about Davis. “She played limited minutes last season, but she stayed here all summer and worked on her game. It all resulted in her being a starter this year and one of our best defensive players.”
King was in foul trouble most of the night and played just 18 minutes. She will likely be remembered for her academic and athletic accomplishments after scoring more than 1,000 points, posting a No. 2 ranking in steals nationally as a senior, leading the team in scoring, rebounding and steals as a senior and earning four straight scholar athlete recognitions with a 3.94 grade point average.
“Tracy is a kid that truly does not want to fail at anything, including basketball and being a great leader,” said Robinson.
Davis and King will officially play their last games in Corbett on Monday when the Aggies face S.C. State at 6 p.m.