|Norfolk State Wins 2012 MEAC Basketball Title||< All News|
|Saturday, March 10, 2012|
NORFOLK STATE HOLDS OFF BETHUNE-COOKMAN TO EARN TOURNAMENT TITLE
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., March 10, 2012 -- MEAC Player and Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Oâ€™Quinn scored a team-high 18 points to lead Norfolk State to a 73-70 victory over Bethune-Cookman to capture the 2012 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament Title at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The No. 2 Spartans (25-9), who earned their first-ever MEAC title, receive the conferenceâ€™s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and will await the announcement in tomorrowâ€™s selection show of their post-season opponent.
The two teams battled back and forth through the early part of the first half until the Spartans used a 14-4 run over the last seven minutes to take a 35-22 advantage. Pendarvis Williams, a 6-6 sophomore guard and Oâ€™Quinn combined for 19 points and 10 rebounds between them.
The Wildcats (18-17) were limited to 31-percent shooting on an 8-for-26 effort. They were out-rebounded, 21-13.
â€œRebounding was huge in the first half, especially on the offensive glass,â€ explained Bethune-Cookman interim head coach Gravelle Craig. â€œThat was the reason that they were able to get the lead.â€
Norfolk State maintained a 12 to 14-point lead over the first 14 minutes until the scrappy Wildcats began to chip away at the lead.
â€œWe knew it would be a battle,â€ said Norfolk State Coach Anthony Evans. â€œThey are relentless going to the basket and they never give up.â€
Bethune-Cookman was able to get the lead down to eight on four different occasions, but each time, Norfolk State would answer with timely baskets from Oâ€™Quinn and Johnson.
â€œOâ€™Quinn was a big factor; he got his hands on a lot of balls,â€ said Craig. â€œHe made us change a lot of our shots.â€
Added Evans. â€œWe depend a lot on those guys (Oâ€™Quinn and Williams) and Robâ€™s (Johnson) play off the bench has been a big spark for us.â€
Trailing 69-60 at the 1:28 mark, the Wildcats staged a furious rally, outscoring the Spartans, 10-4 in less than a minute. Kevin Dukes, who scored 12 of his team-high 18 in the second along with Garrius Holloman and Adrien Coleman led the rally.
With the score, 73-70 and just 17 seconds on the clock, the Wildcats had possession following a Norfolk State turnover.
Holloman scored four of the points during that stretch and attempted a 3-point shot that just missed. Bethune Cookman got the offensive rebound and Dukes got off another three that missed as the buzzer sounded, setting off a big celebration.
â€œI was hoping to knock it down for my teammates,â€ said Holloman. â€œI saw at the end that it was off just a little bit. I didnâ€™t get great rotation on it.â€
It was the Spartansâ€™ first tournament championship since joining the conference in 1997. For Oâ€™Quinn, a senior who finished with 18 points on 6 of 12 shooting and seven rebounds, the championship had special meaning.
â€œI always dreamed of playing in a championship game,â€ said Oâ€™Quinn. â€œI credit all my teammates with all the awards I received this year. But this is a very special accomplishment.â€
It was also the first time that Wildcats have advanced to the championship round. Dukes, who added four assists to his totals was reflective on the game and the season.
â€œWhat we accomplished this year was not unexpected to us,â€ proclaimed Dukes. â€œMaybe to others. We knew we had a good group. We vowed to work hard and come together as a team. We will be back.â€
The Wildcats won the MEAC regular season title last year but were eliminated in the first round of the 2011 MEAC Basketball Tournament.
NSUâ€™s Pendarvis Williams added 17 and Rob Johnson came off the bench to tally 12 of his 15 in the second half.
Bethune-Cookman placed five players in double figures: Dukes (18), Javoris Bryant (15), Coleman (14), Holloman (12) and Johnson (11).
The 2012 All-Tournament team consisted of Amin Stevens (Florida A&M), Chris Tolson (Hampton), Coleman (Bethune-Cookman), Johnson (Norfolk State) and Oâ€™Quinn, who was named Tournament Outstanding Performer. Norfolk Stateâ€™s Evans was named Tournament Outstanding Coach.