The MEAC Shines In Winston-Salem

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: March 15, 2009

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The 2009 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference was filled with thrills, upsets and drama at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Congradulations to the Lady Aggies of NC A&T and the Bears of Morgan State for winning this year’s MEAC Tournament Championships.

They both came into the tournament as the No. 1 seeds and lived up to the expectations of their prospective schools and the conference.

On the women’s side, it was the Amber Bland show as A&T rolled past the Lady Pirates of Hampton 76-54 in the women’s title game. Bland scored 16 of her team-high 18 points in the first half.

Lamona Smalley came off the bench to add 11 of her 15 in the first 20 minutes of the game as A&T redeemed themselves for last year’s heartbreaking loss in the finals.

The Lady Aggies jumped out early on Hampton going on a 28-9 run that set the tone for the game and sealed the deal early. Defensively, the Lady Aggies were tough holding the Lady Pirates to only 35 percent shooting and 16 percent from the three point line.

“It was no secret; we wanted to get off to a great start and the way that you do that is with defense,” said A&T head coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs. “We set the tone with our defense and then Lamona came off the bench to give us a big spark. Amber made a big contribution as well. But it was truly a team effort.”

“Last year was a heartbreaker, but we learned from it,” said Bland. “As seniors, we vowed that we did not want to feel that pain again. This was a lot more than a championship game to us.”

After that loss last year, we’ve been on a mission since Day 1,” said Brittane Taylor-James, the 2009 MEAC Player of the Year. “We have a poster in our locker room that says ‘Unfinished Business’ to remind us. We have had a target on our backs all season but we responded.”.

Coach Bibbs continues to have success wherever she coaches. This is the third team she’s taken to the NCAA Tournament (Grambling and Hampton are the others).

Bland, Taylor-James and Smalley were all selected to the All-MEAC Tournament team and Bland was named the Tournament Most Outstanding Performer.

The Lady Aggies (26-6) received an automatic bid to this week’s NCAA Tournament. Seeded 14th in the Trenton Region, A&T will meet third-seeded Florida State (25-7) in Duluth, Ga. on Saturday.

On the men’s side, Morgan State used the same formula that’s been successful for them all season in beating Norfolk State 83-69 in the men’s championship game.

The title is the first for the men in school history and another step in the building process for head coach Todd Bozeman. “We came out a little shaky at the start and were not playing our game,” said Bozeman.

“I told the guys to settle down and start to play our game. Once we did that, things began to flow.” The Bears had four players in double figures led by Reggie Holmes who scored 20.

After falling behind 10-2 early, the Bears used tenacious defense and a balance offense to take the lead and eventually the game. After taking the lead, the Bears began to pull away midway thru the first half especially after they went on a 18-0 run that was finished by a 3-point basket by Jermaine Bolden.

Norfolk State battled back but still trailed 32-25 at the half. In the end, the Spartans defense could not stop the Bears balanced attack. “Obviously, they are a very physical basketball team and they and they battled tonight and got loose balls,” said NSU head coach Anthony Evans.

“The key was the of their point guard (Bolden). He is a very good point guard. Last year, he was not as effective. He knocked down shots for them and is very effective in running their offense.”

Holmes, a first team all-conference pick and the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, finished with 20, Bolden tallied 18, Kately with 16 and 7 rebounds and Thompson, a freshman with a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bears (23-11), seeded No. 15th in the NCAA’s South Regional, will meet second seeded Oklahoma (27-5) Thursday night at or about 9:40 ET in Kansas City.


As usual, the tournament lived up to it’s hoopla with memorable moments from the opening tip. Here are the five memorable moments in the tournament in my opinion:

1. The MEAC Greek Step Show: Watching the step show gives you a sense of pride and further proves we (black people) have the most rhythm(although I am the exception to the rule).

2. Norfolk State’s upset over South Carolina State: Watching Corey Lyons knock down a three pointer with 16 seconds left in the game to help the Spartans upset the Bulldogs and advanced to the Championship game. Although they didn’t win the game at least Lyons can say he led his team to the championship with a shot he can tell his kids about for years to come.

3. The Lady Rattlers big upset over the Lady Eagles: After Maryland-Eastern Shore beat FAMU twice in the regular season, the Lady Rattlers returned the favor with a stunning 64-43 victory in the quarterfinals. The Lady Eagles surprisingly had no answer for Deidre Jones and three other players who scored in double figures. The win proved how hard it is to beat a team three times in one season in any sport especially basketball.

4. The “redeem team” wins the championship: You couldn’t help but feel happy for Patricia Cage-Bibbs and her Lady Aggies when the game was over and they jumped in celebration after winning the MEAC women’s tournament. The Lady Aggies taste the thrill of victory after suffering the agony of defeat last year in the Championship game. Just think, A&T would probably be celebrating back to back titles if it wasn’t for a last minute basket in last year’s championship loss. Bibbs has proven she can coach in any conference on any level and win.

5. The fans in attendance: Despite all the rain and cold weather, MEAC fans came out and supported their school and their conference impressively. The worries of some about the change in city and venue was quickly erased after the opening day produced lots of cheering and lots of great action! I was even more impressed when I arrived at the LJVM to see a full house for the women’s final game in the midst of a mini rain storm. Nice Job Winston Salem.

So many games, so much excitement and so many memorable moments!

Commissioner Thomas, Patricia Porter and all the other men and women who put this tournament together should be applauded for great efforts this year and in previous years.

With the expansion of North Carolina Central and Winston-Salem State (who played an exciting game Saturday too), the future of the conference and the tournament is bright and continues to head in the right direction.

We also congradulate the MEAC’s Hall of Fame Class of 2009 which includes football star Gene Lake of Delaware State, Norfolk State track standout Chris Brown, South Carolina State SID William Hamilton, former Morgan State SID Joe McIver, and broadcaster Charlie Neal.

See ya next year at the tourney!

And dont forget to check out the “Batchelor Pad” show Monday thru Friday from 6-8 p.m. EST on this website and at The number to call in and listen or make comments is 646-929-0130.