NORFOLK, Va. (March 7, 2017) – Seventh-seed North Carolina A&T started off the MEAC Women's Basketball Championship Tournament with a 71-58 win over North Carolina Central, Tuesday afternoon at Scope Arena.
The win not only avenges the Aggies loss to the Eagles last week at Corbett Sports Center, but it advances them to the quarterfinals 2 p.m., Wednesday against No. 2 seed Howard at the Scope. The Aggies and the Bison split during the regular season.
“We had a hard-fought game against North Carolina Central, but we will be ready to take on the Lady Bison tomorrow,” said N.C. A&T coach Tarrell Robinson. “It wasn’t hard to get the team excited for this one after Thursday. I think for these first two games to play teams we are familiar with makes it easy to be excited.”
Junior Quenswayla Story was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor and was also unfazed at the line, going 4-for-4 t finish the game with 14 points, one point shy of her career high. Aliyah Kilpatrick led the with 15 points, four assists and three steals. In her 15 minutes on the court, Channing James destroyed her previous career-high, scoring 11 points with three rebounds and an assist. Freshman Alexus Lessears had 12 points with a team-leading five rebounds.
“I was excited,” said Story about her reaction when finding out the Aggies drew the Eagles for their first-round play-in game. “We shouldn’t have lost Thursday, but we kept thinking payback. And today’s game was payback.”
N.C. A&T looked like a team looking to get back at their arch-rivals. The Aggies got out to a 21-6 lead but went 1-for-7 in the second quarter as the Eagles got the lead down to 26-19 at halftime. The Eagles cut the lead to five to open the third quarter and were still within five, 30-25, with 5:14 remaining in the third. That is when the Aggies started to create separation and it was led by James. After a Dana Brown bucket, James scored inside and then complemented that basket with a 3-point play to push the lead out to 12 at 37-25.
NCCU’s Jada Blow got the Aggies lead under double digits again with a 3-pointer with 2:48 remaining in the third to cut it to 39-30. But a 7-1 run capped by a Brown fastbreak layup pushed the lead to 46-31 with 1:18 remaining in the third quarter. The Aggies lead never got under 10 again.
“I wasn’t able to be a part of the championship team last year, but I can feel the pressure of what it’s like to win the MEAC championship,” said Kilpatrick. “I think every team comes at us hard and gives us their all so as a team, we have to be able to come together and match, if not advance over, their anticipation.”
The fourth quarter was a display of the Aggies offensive strength as they closed out the fourth quarter by shooting 64.3 percent from the floor. The Aggies led by as many as 17, 60-43, with 4:29 remaining in the game off a 3-pointer from freshman Cinia McCray. They continued to finish the game strong with a layup from Dana Brown and a jumper from Lessears. N.C. A&T benefitted from the Eagles fouls and turnovers throughout the game, finishing with 16 points from the line and 18 points off turnovers as they never trailed on Tuesday.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for Howard,” said Robinson. “We both split our games at home, so playing on a neutral site is going to be exciting. We will be ready.”