Championship slips from the Lady Pirates’ hands

Randall Williams | Sports Editor

There has been a lot of drama between Hampton University and the MEAC of late. The Pirates’ announced leave has left a bad taste in the conference’s mouth. HU is headed for the Big South.

March 10, that was set aside. Instead, the drama was on the court.

The Lady Pirates entered the MEAC women’s basketball championship game in Norfolk having won seven contests in a row and were facing North Carolina A&T.

A month earlier, HU had handed the Aggies their only conference loss.

In the MEAC title game, the Aggies handed the Pirates a devastating defeat.

Jephany Brown scored a game-high 22 points, and Mikayla Sale made a tying layup with seven seconds left in regulation, but HU fell 72-65 in overtime.

It didn’t seem it would go that way at first, though. The Aggies began slowly, not scoring a point for the first five minutes. In the second quarter, Hampton led 21-12. But the Aggies closed out the half strong with a 10-2 run, ultimately leading to a much more manageable 29-23 deficit.

Things took a turn for the worst in the second half for Hampton. In the third quarter, the Lady Pirates only made one field goal in the entire 10 minutes of play. Other than that shot, all of the other points were free throws.

A&T was executing both on offense and defense. The Aggies were able to flip Hampton’s six turnovers into easy buckets along with getting key players such as Ashley Bates into foul trouble. The momentum of the game had clearly changed toward the Aggies, and they used it to outscore the Lady Pirates 19-8 in the third period.

It was now up to Hampton to redeem themselves for giving up their first-half lead, but things weren’t going smoothly. Every time the Lady Pirates inched closer toward the Aggies’ lead, A&T would create just enough separation to feel safe.

With less than 5 minutes to play, North Carolina A&T held a 10-point lead. Hampton wasn’t ready to give up easy. The Lady Pirates went on an 8-0 run, led by Brown and Sayle, to cut the deficit to 2.

The next few possessions were a free throw game. If A&T could manage to hit all of their shots at the charity stripe, they’d certainly win. If they couldn’t, Hampton had a chance.

Kala Green stood at the line and could have pushed the lead to 3 for A&T, but she went 1-for-2.

Sale knotted matters with a layup. The Lady Pirates stole the ball with six seconds left in regulation and were able to get a shot up just before the buzzer sounded.

Unfortunately, it did not fall. In overtime, the Lady Pirates and the Aggies appeared to be in a tug-of-war standstill. Each team hit clutch shots down the wire up until the one-minute mark.

This is where the Aggies began to separate themselves. In one possession A&T was able to grab three offensive rebounds off three missed shots which eventually led to a made jumper. A turnover on Hampton’s next possession forced the Lady Pirates to foul.

Green once again could ice the game at the line, but just like before, she went 1-of-2.

This time, though, the Aggies grabbed the offensive rebound and, soon after, the MEAC championship.

Hampton nearly gave coach David Six a seventh tourney title despite 24 turnovers.

The Lady Pirates ended the season 18-14 and the MEAC runner-up.

As they look toward next year, they will need players to step up and fill the void left by four seniors – Monnazjea Finney-Smith, Allina Starr, Brown and Sayle.

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