RALEIGH, N.C. — When history looks back at the men’s finals of the 2007 MEAC Tournament, the lasting memory will be a group of Florida A&M Rattlers who came together just at the right time for another tourney crown.
Senior Brian Greene scored on an inbounds alley-oop play as the buzzer sounded to give FAMU a heart stopping 58-56 win over Delaware State in the MEAC title game at at the RBC Center.
With 1.1 seconds remaining, Lamar Twitty inbounded the ball from in front of the Rattlers’ bench and threw a perfect pass to the other side of the basket to Greene, who caught the ball and in one motion, dropped the ball in the basket as the horn sounded and set off a wild celebration by the FAMU faithful.
“The play is called FIU after Florida International University,” explained FAMU head coach Mike Gillespie. “We put it in about three years ago and have run it only twice. The first time it failed because someone stepped on Rome Sanders’ foot.”
“We almost didn’t run it this time until Delaware State called that timeout.”
The win gave the second-seeded Rattlers (21-13) the conference’s automatic NCAA bid, its fourth MEAC crown since 1991 and its second title in four years, having captured the prize last in 2004.
It was also the second title win for the Rattlers against Delaware State, as they bested the Hornets in the 1991 title tilt, 84-80 in overtime.
Greene, who was named the tournament’s outstanding player, capped off an outstanding individual performance, finishing with 22 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“This was truly a team effort,” said Greene. “I got a lot of help. In a game like this, there are a lot of people that play a role and it doesn’t always show up in the statistics.” That help came from Joe Ballard who finished with 12 points and Darius Glover who added 11.
Down 28-27 at the half, Greene gave the Rattlers a 29-28 lead to begin the second half on a basket with 19:51 left. DSU would then go on a 6-0 run, capped off by a Roy Bright (game-high 23 points) field goal at the 18:31 mark, giving the Hornets a 34-29 lead.
The Hornets would later push their lead to six points 40-34 on a Elyon Bush (10 points, six rebounds) lay-up with 15:42 to go, before the Rattlers struck back.
FAMU chipped their way back into the game, taking a 44-43 lead on a Greene lay-in, capping an 8-1 run. Greene would extend the Rattlers lead to 50-44, on a made field goal with 7:01 left.
DSU tied the game 56-56 on a Bright lay-up with 32 seconds to go, setting the stage for Greene’s heroics. FAMU shot 62 percent from the field in the second half that featured mini runs by both teams.
The loss was especially bitter for the Hornets (21-12) who won the MEAC regular season title for the third straight year, but would lose in the tournament final for the second straight year.
Two-time MEAC Player of the Year Jahsha Blunt was held to just eight points, as he finished 0-for-9 from three-point range and 3-for-13 from the floor overall. “My shots weren’t falling for me, and even on free throws,” admitted Bluntt.
“I tried to do other things to get myself going, but I couldn’t catch any rhythm.”
In the women’s finals, the Cinderella run of Morgan State came to a crashing halt as second-seeded Delaware State defeated the fourth-seeded Morgan State 55-42 to capture the school’s first MEAC women’s tournament championship.
The Lady Hornets (20-12), who were making its fifth appearance in the MEAC tournament championship game in seven years and its seventh trip to the title game overall, had lost in its six previous appearances, including a 46-36 setback to Coppin State last year.
Ironically, it was MSU’s upset of the top-seeded Lady Eagles in the semifinals that put them in the final. However, the combination of juniors Katreem Palmer (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Raquel Collier (15 points) proved to be too much for the Lady Bears to overcome.
The Lady Bears fell behind 19-10 early in the first half before Whitney Johnson (11 points) capped off an 8-0 MSU run with a lay up to cut the Lady Hornets’ lead to 19-18 with 3:38 left in the half.
DSU scored the last eight points of the half to take a 27-18 lead at intermission. Morgan State pulled to within five points on five occasions in the second half. Delaware State’s lead was cut to 43-38 after a Morgan basket with 7:49 left to play.
Delaware State answered with an 8-0 run to take control for good. Palmer converted a three-point play to give the Lady Hornets a 51-38 lead with 3:38 remaining. It would put the game out of reach for MSU.
The Lady Bears completed its best season since the 1999-2000 campaign finishing at 18-13. In fact, the 18 victories by Don Beasley’s team set a single-season school record. “Fatigue was definitely a factor,” Beasley said.
“Playing Coppin 24 hours earlier in a game like that definitely took its toll on us. But, I’m proud of our players and their effort. They gave it all they had.”
The win was Delaware State’s seventh in a row, and gave the Lady Hornets their fourth 20-win season (20-12) in the last five years. Most importantly it gave them the conference’s automatic NCAA bid.
“I am so proud of this team,” said DSU head coach Ed Davis. “We had our share of ups and downs this season, but the team stuck together. After coming up short in the title game a few times, this is especially sweet.”
“I am so happy for players like Collier, Palmer and Ashlee Burbage. They have been with me for three years and have been through an awful lot. This championship belongs to them as much as anyone.”