WINSTON-SALEM-Redshirt sophomore guard Amber Calvin scored
24 of her 26 points in the second half, and carried the North Carolina A&T
women's basketball team from the brink of a blowout to the precipice of one of
the greatest comebacks in the history of the program.
Coppin State's offensive rebounding and timely foul shooting
ended the historic comeback attempt as the Eagles advanced to the MEAC Basketball
Tournament semifinal with a 78-74 win over the Aggies Thursday afternoon at
Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
Behind 23 points with 15:55 left in the game, the Aggies
were led by Calvin to pull ahead 68-63 with 4:44 remaining in the quarterfinal
game. Calvin scored 15 points during an incredible offensive 14-minute stretch
in which the Aggies outscored the Eagles 35-7.
The Aggies held on to the lead until the 1:28 mark when
Larrisa Carter capitalized on an Aggies turnover and scored on an easy layup to
give the Eagles a 70-69 lead . After a Kyra Coleman free throw, junior JaQuayla
Berry added a jumper to tie the game at 71-71 with a minute left. Two Aggie turnovers and 4-for-6 shooting from
the free throw line helped the Eagles score the next six points for a 77-71
Calvin hit a three-pointer with five seconds left to try to
keep the Aggies within arms-reach of the Eagles. The excitement continued as
the Aggies' stingy defense did not allow Coppin State to inbound the ball.
Dawnnae Roberts' inbound eventually went errant, giving the Aggies the ball back
underneath their own basket with 5.5 seconds remaining.
The Aggies got the ball into the hands of Calvin for a
last-attempt shot, but Calvin may have thought she had less time than she did,
as her rushed shot hit the edge of the backboard. The Eagles got the ball and Calvin fouled out
of the game. Shawntae Payne hit a free
throw to end the game and push Coppin State into the semifinals against No. 1
"We were right there.
Being down by so many points, by 18 in the first half, and to come back
in the second half-we fought. And we
fought against a very good team. Coppin State
is really a good team," Bibbs said.
The Aggies went 9-for-17 at the line in the second half, and
missed five free throws in the last six minutes of the game. That could have spelled the difference for
"We could have won it at the free throw line. They really got on the boards and
out-rebounded us. I always say if you
want that championship, you've got to do your rebounding and you've got to
knock down free throws. But I'm so
proud, so very proud of these ladies. If
you wanted to see a good ballgame, that was a good game, it really was. In this business, only one team is going to
win it though. Unfortunately it wasn't
For the second straight time versus Coppin State, the Aggies
found themselves down by a large margin at halftime. On Jan. 23, they were down
by 19. On Thursday, the Aggies trailed 44-26.
The Aggies had 17 turnovers in the first half, off of which
the Eagles were able to capitalize for 21 points. The
Aggies turned it around in the second half by stepping up their defense, and
going to full court man-to-man press.
The defensive adjustments worked as the Aggies forced 13 CSU turnovers
and held them to 37 percent shooting. The
Aggies also committed just nine second-half turnovers and doubled their
rebounding total in the second half. The
Aggies had to finish the game without their two bigs, forward sophomore
Tiffanie Adair and junior center Nikia Gorham, who both fouled out.
"When you play man-to-man defense, you have to play
man-to-man defense. You've got to play
passing lanes, you've got to help sides, you've got to be in on people. That's what they came back with. They were more aggressive. A lot of time s an aggressive team will come
out on top," Bibbs said. "Defense is
what gets us going. We really wanted to
be more intense. I like pressure
defense. Just going man-to-man defense
full court rushed things up for [the Eagles]."
Berry, who finished the game with 17 points, said that the
team's spirit also helped them generate the rally.
"Once we get started, there's not too much that can stop
us," Berry said. "That's just what we
wanted to do. When we get energized, and
get the whole team, not just the people on the court, but the whole team into
the game, then just seeing everybody getting hype, gives us the extra push we
need. That's what happened. We got on a roll and we just kept it going."
Unfortunately the roll didn't go far enough, as the Aggies
find themselves out of the running for their third MEAC tournament crown.
As much as Thursday's loss hurts now, the Aggies can take
comfort in knowing that the development their team saw this season will pay off
"It's a young team. It's been ups and downs, but it's just
teaching. That's what we were doing-just
teaching. You've got to compete though," said Bibbs. "There just isn't enough time to grow up with
very good teams in this conference. But
we're going to grow and we're growing. These freshmen have probably got more
playing time than any other freshmen in the conference."
She looks to return her entire team, which was the sixth
youngest in Division I this year, next season.
Berry, already a member of the 1,000-point club, and Gorham will be
seniors in 2012-13. Calvin will have another
two years to compete, and is already in excellent shape to make a run for the
A&T all-time assists record. She
ends the 2011-12 season with 208 assists and 753 points for her career. The all-time assists record is 393 held by
Ta'Wuana Cook. Calvin has a good chance
to match that record and also join the 1,000-point club in the next two
All-MEAC Rookie member Tiffanie Adair
could have another three years in the Aggies' program if everything works out
academically. Tracy King, who would have been a contender for All-MEAC honors
before being injuring her knee midway
through January, will be back next season along with rising junior DeAndre
The eight freshmen on the team will become experienced sophomores. Six of the eight freshmen-Kelsei Ewings,
ChyAnna Cunningham, Jessica Lyons, Adriana Nazario, Jaylan Bodiford and Ariel
Bursey-- started in games this season and earned valuable playing time. "In some ways when you lose, you actually
win. My young kids they've grown up the
whole year. They're young and they're
hurting. But there's a great
future. Someone's going to have to reckon
with this team," Bibbs said.