|Hampton captures fifth straight MEAC title||< All News|
|Saturday, March 15, 2014|
NORFOLK, Va. – For the fifth straight year, the Hampton Lady Pirates are the class of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Led by a stifling defensive effort and 20 points from senior guard Nicole Hamilton, top-seeded Hampton (28-4) claimed its MEAC-record fifth straight tournament title with a 50-47 win over No. 3 seed Coppin State on Saturday afternoon at the Scope Arena.
The fifth championship didn’t come easy for Hampton. Neither the Lady Pirates nor Coppin State led by more than seven points in a game that was high in intensity but low in points. The outcome wasn’t sealed until Coppin State (17-14) missed three shots in the final 23 seconds trailing by three points. Coppin’s Ashle Craig missed a 3-pointer from the left wing, and teammates Kyra Coleman and Larrisa Carter missed two-point shots in the closing seconds.
“I tell you what, we didn’t have it today,” Hampton Head Coach David Six said. “We just didn’t have it. It was a tough, tough game. Coppin (State) came to play, and they always play us tough. As always, it’s the defense that bails us out. We never did get going offensively. Because we went undefeated in the conference…we get everybody’s best shot every game, and sometimes you’re not on your best game. So was there tension? Yes. But was it the first time we dealt with this? No. We knew this would be a close game because Coppin (State) always plays us this way.”
As usual, Hampton got the job done with defense. The league’s top field-goal percentage defense coming in limited CSU to 25.7 percent shooting (18-of-70) from the floor. The Lady Pirates also forced 18 Coppin State turnovers, eight coming in the second half. But Coppin State kept it close thanks to a stout defensive effort of its own. The Lady Eagles held Hampton to 26.2 percent shooting (17-of-65), but the Lady Pirates outscored CSU 15-7 from the free-throw line.
There were five ties in the second half, the last coming after Craig knocked down a 3-pointer with 7:23 left to knot the score at 39-all. But Hamilton scored the next four points, converting 1-of-2 from the line before draining a 3-pointer to give her team a four-point cushion. A free throw by Malia Tate-DeFreitas pushed the edge to five, 44-39.
Coppin State countered by hitting four straight free throws, two each by Craig and Amber Griffin, to cut Hampton’s lead to 44-43. But that would be as close as the Lady Eagles would get.
Coleman had the hot hand early to help Coppin State get out to a strong start. She scored 10 of the Lady Eagles’ first 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. CSU led by as many as seven points on two occasions during the first half, the last coming at 20-13 after Coleman hit 1-of-2 from the line with 9:25 left before halftime.
But Hampton closed the half on a 16-3 run and held the Lady Eagles without a point over the final 4:50 before the intermission. The spurt included six points for forward Brielle Ward and five by Hamilton.
In addition to her game-high 20 points, Hamilton added seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. Tournament Most Outstanding Performer Alyssa Bennett added eight points and a team-high 11 rebounds. She finished the tournament with 45 rebounds in Hampton’s three games. Ward added her first double-double of the season with 10 rebounds and a season-high 10 points.
“It’s always hard to play a team a third time, but we just have to key in to what the other players are doing and learn from it,” Bennett said.
Coleman capped her CSU career with 18 points and 11 rebounds, earning a spot on the all-tournament team. Craig chipped in with 12 points, Griffin dished out eight assists, and Carter had eight points and 11 rebounds.
“My ladies played as hard as they could,” Coppin State Head Coach Derek Brown said. “We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to, but I’ll take that lack of execution and make it up with just, sheer hard work. We have nothing to hang our heads about, other than losing.”
Coleman and Bennett were joined on the all-tournament team by Norfolk State’s Rae Corbo, Morgan State’s Tracey Carrington and Savannah State’s Ezinne Kalu. Lady Pirates coach David Six was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Coach for the fifth straight year.
With their fifth consecutive MEAC title, Hampton eclipsed Howard’s previous record of four straight titles from 1987-90. The Lady Pirates have won 49 straight games against MEAC opponents, including both conference tournament and regular-season games.
Hampton will learn its NCAA Tournament pairing when the brackets are unveiled at 7 p.m. Monday night. The NCAA selection show will be broadcast live on ESPN.
Alyssa Bennett, Hampton
Kyra Coleman, Coppin State
Tracey Carrington, Morgan State
Rae Corbo, Norfolk State
Ezinne Kalu, Savannah State
Tournament Most Outstanding Performer
Alyssa Bennett, Hampton
Tournament Most Outstanding Coach
David Six, Hampton