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Hampton wins fourth consecutive MEAC Woman’s Tournament Title
By Eric Graham
Updated: March 17, 2013
By MEAC Media Relations: Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013
Norfolk, Va. — Hampton used a stifling defense and a balanced scoring attack to defeat Howard in the MEAC Women’s Basketball Championship game at the Scope.
The Lady Pirates (28-5), who receive the conference’s automatic NCAA qualification, await the announcement of the pairings on Monday.
Hampton imposed its will on the Lady Bison (20-11), jumping out to 11-1 lead and limiting them to only five field goals en route to a 35-15 halftime advantage.
The Lady Pirates were able to effectively contain Howard’s Saadia Doyle, holding her to only one free-throw in the first 20 minutes.
On the offensive end, Hampton got a big boost from Olivia Allen, who broke the game open with back-to-back, to-back, to-back 3-point plays during a two-minute stretch late in the first half.
“We wanted to play solid defense and control the game from the start,” said Hampton head coach David Six. “The game plan was to keep Doyle out of the paint area where she is very effective. She is a great player and she makes them go. I thought AB (Alyssa Bennett) did a good job on her.”
Added Bennett, who was the 2012-13 MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, “I tried to play the best defense that I could against her and force her off the block. She is a great player so it wasn’t just me. I got help from my teammates.”
Howard’s woes were compounded when both Doyle and Cheyenne Curley-Payne, got in early foul trouble and had to sit for an extended period. That is when Bennett, Allen, Nicole Hamilton and Kieara Avant took control, scoring 26 of their team’s points.
Howard came out in the second half and ran off a 14-6 spurt that cut the margin to 41-29 with 10:43 on the clock. The rally was sparked by Curley-Payne and Doyle, who combined for 12 of the points.
“We talked about heart at halftime,” said Howard Coach Nikki Reid Geckeler. “It’s about getting out there, playing harder and winning those 50-50 points.”
Following a Hampton timeout, Hamilton converted two free throws, Bennett canned a three pointer and Avant scored on back-to-back baskets during a 2:18 stretch that saw the Lady Pirates lead balloon to 50-29 and all but put the game away.
“I thought we were a little tight during that stretch,” said Coach Six. “I told the team to loosen up and get back to what we were doing to get us the lead.”
Howard was led by Kara Smith, who tallied 10 of her team-high 12 points in the first half. Doyle finished with 9 points, 12 below her average and Payne, who had seven points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
“The foul trouble to Saadia and Cheyenne really hurt us,” said Geckeler. “When you get in foul trouble at those two positions, it forced other to have to step up. It’s still a group that went 20-11 and I don’t want to make this one game an indication of what we accomplished this season.”
Doyle, who was named to the all-tournament team for the fourth straight year, closed out her career as the MEAC and Howard’s all-time career leading scorer in men’s and women’s history with over 2,200 points.
“We had a tendency to back up and retreat instead of being aggressive,” said Doyle, reflecting on the game. “When you retreat, you put yourself in bad situations. It all comes down to not handling the pressure well enough.”
Hampton got a game-high 16 from Allen, 14 from Bennett, 12 from Avant and 10 from Hamilton.
The Lady Pirates won their fourth straight MEAC tournament title, tying with Howard for the record (1987-1990). The Lady Pirates have now won 19 in a row headed into the NCAA Tournament.
Eboni Ross of North Carolina A&T, Kyra Coleman of Coppin State, Bianca Jarrett of Morgan State and Avant were named to the all-tournament team. Avant was voted tournament outstanding player and Six most outstanding coach.
2013 MEAC All-Tournament Team
Eboni Ross, North Carolina A&T
Kyra Coleman, Coppin State
Saadia Doyle, Howard
Bianca Jarrett, Morgan State
Keiara Avant, Hampton
2013 Outstanding Performer
Keiara Avant, Hampton
2013 Outstanding Coach
David Six, Hampton