GREENSBORO (February 19, 2018) – Senior Kala Green didn’t have her best shooting night. It wasn’t the greatest night at the free throw line for sophomore Alexus Lessears either. But when the North Carolina A&T women’s basketball team needed both down the stretch against Maryland Eastern Shore Monday at Corbett Sports Center, they came through.
Sophomore Mikaya Wilson put the finishing touches on the Hawks with a blocked shot and free throws in a 65-60 win.
Green was 1-for-10 from the floor against the Hawks. But with the Aggies trailing 55-53 with 2:17 remaining in the game, Green was hit while trying to shoot a 3-pointer. The foul gave Green three free throws, and she swished them all to give the Aggies a one-point lead. Green then got her only field goal of the night by going baseline to score on a layup to give the Aggies a 58-55 with 90 seconds to play.
N.C. A&T then turned to Lessears for her free throw shooting. There were times on Monday when her unorthodox free-throw shooting style caused the Hawks and the Aggies to commit lane violations. With the Aggies still leading 58-55 with 35 seconds to go in the game, Lessears went to the line with a 1-for-9 free throw shooting number on the stat sheet. Those numbers looked like a fabrication as Lessears shot her two free throws like a 90 percent shooter to give the Aggies a five-point advantage.
Two Cinia McCray free throws gave the Aggies a 62-56 with 30 seconds remaining. Nine seconds later, however, McCray fouled a 3-point shooting Kenya Eaton. Eaton knocked down the jumper and went to the free throw line and completed the 4-point play to cut the lead to two at 62-60. Wilson hit one of two free throws to increase the lead to three before making the defensive play of the night.
On a 3-point attempt from Alexus Hicks, Wilson ran over and extended her left arm to block Hicks’ shot with 6.3 seconds to go in the game. Hicks got the ball back but forced up and missed a desperation shot with time running down. Wilson got the rebound and hit two free throws with 3.4 seconds go to seal the game.
“This time of the year when you can gut out tough games and come out on top, that’s the characteristic of a championship team,” said N.C. A&T coach Tarrell Robinson. “We played awful, we didn’t shoot the ball well, we didn’t take care of the ball, but in spurts we made plays. In spurts, we found a way to be discipline and get the shot we wanted. In spurts, we found the will to defend and rebound. That’s what you want to see going into tournament play.
There are going to be ups and downs where games are going to come down to one possession, so I’m excited that this young group is no longer a young group.”
One player who was in the young group, Lessears, had 15 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks on 6-for-10 shooting. Lessears posted her seventh career double-double.
She has improved throughout the year,” said Robinson, referring to Lessears who was honored for having a 4.0 grade point average on Monday. “It was just a process for her. She was injured (knee) during the summer, so she really didn’t have a chance to have a great offseason in terms of getting better. But from the moment she got healthy, she continued to work on her game. We wanted her to be patient in her development, even with her free throw shooting. I’m glad to see her patients and hard work pay off. She is a disciplined young lady, and she is reaping the benefits.”
Green tied a career high with 10 rebounds. Sophomore C’Coriea Foy posted 13 points and six rebounds. Eaton had 17 points to lead the Hawks (9-17, 6-8 MEAC).
N.C. A&T (17-8, 12-1 MEAC) is still one game behind Bethune-Cookman (21-4, 13-0 MEAC) for first place in the conference. Their remaining three regular-season games are on the road at Florida A&M (Feb. 24), at B-CU (Feb. 26) and at N.C. Central (March 1).
“We’ve grown and matured and given our fans something to hope for going into the tournament,” said Robinson. “Going into the Florida trip, we are right where we want to be. We control our own destiny.”