BOCA RATON, Fla. (December 28, 2018) – The North Carolina A&T women’s basketball team are hoping the skies are starting to clear now that Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play is near. They took a step toward stepping out of the rain on Friday during the first game of the Florida Atlantic University Post Christmas Tournament at FAU Arena.
Junior guard Cinia McCray scored five big points in clutch time to lead the Aggies to a 67-65 win over tournament host FAU. McCray had a career day with 26 points on 8-for-17 shooting from the field and 7-for-8 shooting from the free throw line including two crucial free throws in the final seconds.
“Cinia McCray played her best basketball of the year, and I’m hoping she can continue that trend,” said N.C. A&T coach Tarrell Robinson.
Robinson’s Aggies will face Yale 2:30 p.m., Saturday at FAU Arena for the tournament championship.
“We want to win the tournament title now and we obviously want to win a tournament in March to ourselves up for postseason play,” said Robinson. “We want to defend our championship trophy from last season.
“We have an opportunity to win this tournament and do better than we did in our last tournament at Navy,” Robinson concluded by referring to Navy’s Thanksgiving tournament in Annapolis, Md.
In their next to last non-conference tilt before MEAC play, N.C. A&T trailed by three, 64-61, with a minute remaining in the game. Freshman Taya Jones went to the line after being fouled by Glenisha Harkless and made the first of two free throws. She missed the second, but on the ricochet, the ball went out of bounds off the Owls giving the Aggies a second-chance opportunity.
McCray made the best of it by taking a pass from Jones and dropping her third 3-pointer of the night to give the Aggies a 65-64 lead with 36 seconds remaining in the game. Things got interesting from there.
The Owls (3-9) followed McCray’s big three by missing two free throws. They were able to corral the offensive rebound, but a Jones steal gave the Aggies the ball back with 25 seconds remaining. The Aggies (3-9) were not able to take advantage as they missed two free throws on their end setting the Owls up for a chance to win the game.
FAU had three cracks at winning the game missing all three as the ball eventually landed into the hands of freshman Rayven Peeples for a defensive board with nine seconds to go. McCray finally gave the Aggies a small cushion by hitting two free throws with seven seconds remaining to give the Aggies a 67-64 advantage. Harkless’ three misfired with two seconds remaining to clinch the win for N.C. A&T.
“It was a back-and-forth game. I thought FAU had some good runs and we were able to respond to each one,” said Robinson. “We survived most of the storm in the first half. I knew if we could put together a decent second half we could possibly come out with the victory and that's what we did.”
FAU ended the first quarter on an 8-1 run to hold a 22-13 lead. The Owls grew that lead to 10 to open the second quarter on a free throw. The Aggies worked until they were able to get the Owls lead to four, 30-26, with 1:18 remaining in the first half. A layup by freshman Charme Lilly put the Aggies down 32-28 at the half.
Peeples finished with 13 points and eight rebounds (five offensive). Jones came off the bench to finish 3-for-5 from 3-point range for 10 points. FAU was led Abby Voss who came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds.