NORFOLK, Va. (March 8, 2017) – Seventh-seed North Carolina A&T kept their back-to-back title dreams alive with a 68-58 win over the second-seeded Howard Bison in the quarterfinal round of the 2017 MEAC Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament at Norfolk Scope Arena Wednesday afternoon.
The Aggies reached the MEAC tournament semifinals for the fifth straight season, all under N.C. A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson. The Aggies have now won five straight MEAC tournament games as Robinson improved to 8-3 in the MEAC tournament. The Aggies improved to 14-17 overall as they will advance to play the winner of No. 11 Maryland Eastern Shore/No. 3 Hampton quarterfinal game scheduled for noon Thursday. Howard’s season comes to an end at 16-13 with two of those losses coming to N.C. A&T.
“I’m extremely proud of my team and my hat goes off to coach Ty Grace and the Howard Lady Bison, who had a tremendous season,” said head coach Tarrell Robinson. “For us, it feels good to be back in familiar territory as far as being in the semifinals and these seniors want to make the most of it.”
The Aggies veteran guard trio were key. The trio scored 43 of the Aggies 68 points, nine of the team’s 15 assists and eight of N.C. A&T’s nine assists on Wednesday led by graduate Aliyah Kilpatrick as she finished with 15 points, five steals, four rebounds and three assists. Kala Green scored in double figures for the first time in nine game as she posted 14 points, a season-high six assists and five rebounds. Dana Brown added 14 points.
Brown’s 3-pointer that connected at the third-quarter buzzer propelled the Aggies into the fourth quarter with a 48-45 lead. Howard didn’t let Brown’s shot phase them as they scored the first five points of the fourth quarter. Brown, however, did not relent. She popped another three through the basket to get the Aggies even again at 52. Brown’s three ignited a 12-1 run as Brown had two threes during the run to give the Aggies a 61-53 advantage.
Jasmine Hill kept Howard’s hopes alive with a 3-point play that cut N.C. A&T’s lead to 62-58 with 58 seconds remaining. But the Aggies hit 6 of 8 free throws late to advance.
“We talked at halftime and every time out how we weren’t taking advantage of our transitions because Howard presses every possession, and it’s in the back of your mind every time you get a defensive rebound and take the ball out,” said Robinson. “We needed to put the pressure on them and we were able to open up. Dana Brown was able to get some easy baskets and Aliyah Kilpatrick got some easy layups and was able to open the game up a little bit.”
Kilpatrick was the force the Aggies needed early as she scored nine of the Aggies first 11 points by going 4-for-4 to start the game. Howard, however, started to build a lead in the second quarter. Sarah Edmond’s jumper gave Howard what would be their biggest lead of the night, seven points, at 24-17 with 6:29 remaining in the first half. The Aggies fought back with a Quenswayla Story jumper and two free throws from Kilpatrick and another from Michelle Fitzgerald to cut the lead to 24-22 with 4:10 to go in the first half.
The Aggies ended the half with a flourish that helped them maintain the lead for most of the third quarter. A Brown 3-pointer cut the Bison’s lead to 28-26. Three straight free throws gave the Aggies the lead before a Brown steal led to a transition layup by senior Whitney Martin. Lessears added two more on a layup for the 33-28 advantage before Howard closed out the half with a shot from beyond the arc for a 33-31 halftime score.
Freshman center Alexus Lessears had her ninth double-digit rebounding game with a game-high 13. Five of those rebounds came on the offensive end. The Aggies are 0-2 against the Hawks this season and lost to Hampton in Hampton, Va., on Jan. 4.
“Offensive rebounds have been where we have been as a team all season and we are second in the league behind FAMU,” said Robinson.