NORFOLK, Va. (March 9, 2018) – North Carolina A&T women’s basketball booked a trip to their second Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament championship game in three years by defeating 12th-seeded Florida A&M 65-51 in Friday’s semifinal round at Scope Arena.
Senior Kala Green was a major part of the Aggies winning their eighth consecutive game scoring 18 off the bench to lead the Aggies (22-8). The Aggies will advance to play the Hampton Pirates in a 3:30 p.m., title game at the Scope. Hampton was the last team to beat the Aggies before N.C. A&T went on its eight-game tear to win a share of the MEAC regular-season title.
Hampton beat MEAC co-regular-season champion Bethune-Cookman 61-60 in Friday’s other semifinal game. The Pirates/Aggies tilt will be streamed live on ESPN3 and broadcasted tape delayed on ESPNU Sunday, March 11 at 8 a.m. The underdog Rattlers didn’t make N.C. A&T’s advancement easy, however.
“Florida A&M gave us everything they had,” said N.C. A&T coach Tarrell Robinson. “I was telling our ladies to start the game that we won big at FAMU but after Thursday and by the start of Monday the regular season does not mean anything. There were a lot of upsets early on including FAMU falling into this position. This is tournament basketball. You have to respond and you have to understand that teams are going to make runs so you have to find a way to make runs yourself.
I am extremely proud of my young women. They are doing what they have done all year facing adversity and found a way to overcome the obstacle in front of us.”
Green scored 10 points in the second half, but the Aggies fell behind after a five-point halftime lead, 32-27. The Rattlers used a 13-0 run at the beginning of the third period to pull ahead 40-32 at the 5:57 mark. Green ended the run and then proceeded to get the Aggies back on track scoring seven points during a 9-0 Aggies run.
Green gave the Aggies a 41-40 lead hitting two free throws with four minutes remaining in the third. FAMU came back down and reclaimed the lead followed by a hard drive to the rim by sophomore Cinia McCray for a 3-point play giving the Aggies a 46-40 lead.
McCray opened the fourth period with two made field goals, sparking a 6-0 run to give N.C. A&T a 53-46 lead. FAMU’s Florence Ouattara started to catch fire scoring 11 fourth-quarter points including three made 3-pointers. Her last three brought the deficit to three, 62-59 followed by two free throws from Shakeyrra Morrison that got the Rattlers to within one, 62-61, with 1:35 to play.
Sophomore C’Coriea Foy gave N.C. A&T a 64-61 lead with 1:35 remaining on a jumper in the paint. Two missed shots by FAMU and a turnover with under a minute to play ended the Rattlers upset hopes. Ouattara scored a game-high 20 points and Morrison had a double-double of 15 points with 15 rebounds against the Aggies.
“We knew we had to keep the energy and defend,” said Foy. “All we know is defend, defend and defend. When adversity hits us, we just know that we need to defend to force turnovers and execute offensively.”
N.C. A&T outrebounded the Rattlers 47-39 and dominated points in the paint, 26-14.
Seniors Kala Green and Quenswayla Story are the only two members left from the 2016 MEAC tournament championship team and will lead a group of seven sophomore, one junior and a freshman into Saturday’s championship game.
“We have to get some rest tonight so that we will have fresh legs tomorrow,” said Green.