NORFOLK, Va. – The North Carolina A&T women’s basketball team did not have their 28-game Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) streak ended on a buzz beater or a questionable call or even a careless mistake.
Their streak was ended by a determined Norfolk State team that played well enough to defeat the Aggies 60-43 Friday afternoon in the semifinals of the MEAC Basketball Championship Tournament at the Norfolk Scope Arena.
The Aggies (20-11), who finished 16-0 in the MEAC during the regular season, will not see their season come to an end. The Aggies will find out who they play in the 2019 WNIT opening round game 9 p.m., Monday. But the Aggies chances of winning a third MEAC tournament in four years and advancing to the NCAA tournament is over. In losing this season for the first time in 17 straight games, the Aggies were outrebounded 44-31.
We know we did not give our best effort today. We know were beat today,” said N.C. A&T coach Tarrell Robinson. “We're all about accountable in this program. You don't cry over a team who shows up and beats you with a great game plan. We were just out of sync today.”
Junior C’Coriea Foy led the Aggies with 20 points and eight rebounds. It was the 11th time in her career she has scored 20 points or more.
“In the first quarter it was pretty close,” said Foy. “As they increased their lead, we started playing out of character. We stopped doing the things that have worked for us all throughout the conference season. Defensively, we didn't do the things we pride ourselves in.”
The Spartans (17-14) turned an 8-8 game in the first quarter into a 16-10 lead thanks in part to two 3-pointers by Dana Echols. The Aggies did in the quarter with a floater in the lane by Foy to trail 16-12 going into the second quarter.
NSU started to pull away in the second quarter thanks to 3-point shooting and an effective matchup zone that kept the Aggies stagnant on offense. The Aggies connected on just two field goals in the second quarter. A Russell Rayven layup gave the Spartans (17-14) a 29-19 lead going into halftime and the Aggies struggled to keep the Spartans away from a double-figure lead the rest of the way.
“Winning 17 straight games, we knew going into every game how bad teams wanted to beat us,” said Aggies junior center Alexus Lessears. “Teams believe if they can beat us then they’re really the best. We never let that bother us because we always prided ourselves on being ready for the challenge. Today they showed up ready to play us, and we were not ready.”
N.C. A&T did come out of the locker room with some fire. Lessears scored inside and junior guard Cinia McCray hit a 3-pointer to cut the Spartans lead to 29-24. But La’Deja James halted the Aggies momentum with a 3-pointer before Kendrea Dawkins scored inside on two consecutive possessions to push the Spartans lead to midway through the third quarter.
The Aggies never got the lead under double figures again. Norfolk State advanced to the final and will play Bethune-Cookman on Saturday evening at the Scope.
As for the Aggies, they only lose one senior in Charnise Tyler. They are scheduled to return six seniors next season along with two Division I transfers who are juniors. Plus, the Aggies had an impressive freshman class that included Charme Lilly who sustained a season-ending injury in mid-January and Rayven Peeples who led the team in double-figure rebounding games with nine. Freshmen Jasmen Walton and Taya Jones also contributed. They appear to be excellent perimeter shooters. As for the streak, the Aggies want a new one.
“We honestly did not talk about a streak,” said Robinson. “We talked about the end goals. The streak just happened to be a part of that. We pride ourselves in preparing the right way for every game and hopefully coming out with a win. We have been able to do that for the most part. It's only natural that some things come to an end. I just hate that ended in this fashion for our senior Charnise Tyler. But hopefully, the young ladies who are scheduled to return can learn from this.”