Hampton Eliminates N.C. A&T
NORFOLK, Va. (March 10, 2017) – Despite their best efforts in the fourth quarter, North Carolina A&T’s season ended on Friday in the 2017 MEAC Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament as the third-seeded Hampton Pirates defeated the seventh-seeded Aggies 64-62 at the Norfolk Score Arena.
The Aggies (14-18) nearly changed the subject of the game from their 30 turnovers to rallying from a 14-point deficit. But when the Aggies failed to get off a 3-point attempt at the end of the game, Hampton’s 20-10 advantage in points off turnovers could not be ignored.
“In shootaround today our coaches talked about how Hampton liked to do a running jump,” said graduate guard Aliyah Kilpatrick. “Obviously with 30 turnovers we didn’t really take care of the ball, but when we got them in foul trouble we were able to be ourselves.”
Kilpatrick concluded her collegiate career with an 18-point, five-rebound, five-assist and two-steal game while fifth-year guard Dana Brown went out with 11 points. Whitney Martin, the only player on the team who has played with the Aggies for four years, finished her career with four points in 10 minutes of action. All three women have their college undergraduate degrees.
Brown, who spent her first college basketball season at UNC Wilmington, will end her college career 1,094 points after scoring 177 points as a freshman for the Seahawks. Kilpatrick, who played three years at Winthrop, finishes her career 1,440 points with 383 of those coming this season as an Aggie. Martin finishes with 253 points.
“I want to take the time to congratulate these young women [Brown, Kilpatrick and Martin] who played their last collegiate game,” said Aggies coach Tarrell Robinson. “I want them to know how proud I am.”
The Aggies nearly got another game for those seniors by finishing the game on a strong note. N.C. A&T went a perfect 10-for-10 from the floor as they rallied from what was once a 45-31 Hampton lead with 25 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Aggies were fired up to start the fourth quarter as they hit their first two shots on a jumper from Kilpatrick and layup from Martin. Brown added a jumper of her own to trail the Pirates 49-39 and ignited N.C. A&T offensively with two 3-pointers. A jumper from Kilpatrick brought the Aggies even closer to the Pirates, putting the Aggies down 57-52 with 1:58 left on the clock.
As hot as the Aggies were in the final quarter, the Aggies had problems making stops against the Pirates (19-12). Hampton still held a 61-54 lead with 1:13 to play. But Kilpatrick was magnificent in the fourth quarter, posting 12 of her game-high 18 points in the fourth. She was fouled on a jump shot she connected on to send her to the line for the 3-point play. She missed the free throw, but alertly grabbed her own rebound and scored, thus giving the Aggies a four-point play while cutting the Pirates lead to 61-58. With 22 seconds remaining, two free throws from Brown brought the contest to a one-point game. N.C. A&T’s late offensive effort led to three Pirates fouling out.
“Dana felt that sense of urgency and Aliyah started to attack the basket,” said Robinson of the Aggies fourth quarter performance. “Hampton was running two people at us and had some people in foul trouble, so we were actually able to run our offense. That’s how we were able to score some of those baskets and get it to one possession with under a minute left.”
Two free throws by K’lynn Willis gave Hampton and three-point lead, leading to an interesting late-game development. The Aggies trailed 63-60. They took the ball out on the sideline near halfcourt. Kilpatrick, the fourth-quarter star, got the ball off a screen, but according to Robinson the Hampton defender did a great job of switching off the screen to get in Kilpatrick’s way. The defensive play took Kilpatrick out of her shooting rhythm as she passed the ball to an open Alexus Lessears for a layup that cut the lead to 63-62 with only 0.9 seconds remaining on the clock.
Robinson, who led the Aggies to their fifth straight semifinal appearance, is one win shy of his 100th coaching victory. He will lose the versatility of a Kilpatrick, the outside shooting of a Brown and the leadership skills of a Martin. He does get back three juniors – Kala Green, Michelle Fitzgerald and Quenswayla Story – who were instrumental in the Aggies winning the 2016 MEAC tournament. The team’s lone sophomore, Charnise Tyler, missed the final 14 games after a season-ending ACL injury on Jan. 21 at home against Howard. Before the injury she was averaging 6.1 points and 5.6 rebounds. N.C. A&T had a huge freshman class of seven players this season including MEAC All-Rookie member Lessears who capped her freshman season with nine points and 11 rebounds. Two other players – Division I transfers Ccoriea Foy and Mikaya Wilson – sat out this season per NCAA rules. Throw in another strong recruiting class and the Aggies are optimistic about the future.
“The future is bright,” said Robinson. “Alexus Lessears is going to be someone who is the cornerstone of our program. We have Shantell Bostick and Cinia McCray who I’m excited about and I’m interested to see if our junior class can bring the type of leadership that’s necessary. We will be right back in the thick of things.”