NORFOLK, Va. – North Carolina A&T State women’s basketball booked a trip to their second conference tournament championship game in four years by defeating the No. 12 seed Florida A&M 65-51 in the semifinal round on Friday at noon. Senior Kala Green was a major part of the Aggies winning their eighth consecutive game scoring 18 of 26 bench points for N.C. A&T.
“Florida A&M gave us everything they had,” said N.C. A&T head women’s basketball coach Tarrell Robinson. “I was telling our ladies to start the game that we won big at FAMU but after Thursday and by the start of Monday the regular season does not mean anything. There were a lot of upsets early on including FAMU falling into this position. This is tournament basketball. You have to respond and you have to understand that teams are going to make runs so you have to find a way to make runs yourself. I am extremely proud of my young women. They are doing what they have done all year facing adversity and found a way to overcome the obstacle in front of us."
Green scored 10 points in the second half, but the Aggies fell behind after a five-point half time lead, 32-27. The Rattlers used a 13-0 run at the beginning of the third period to pull ahead 40-32 at the 5:57 mark. She ended the run and then proceeded to get the Aggies back on track scoring seven points during a 9-0 run by N.C. A&T. Green gave the Aggies a 41-40 lead hitting a pair of free throws with four minutes left in the third. FAMU came back down and reclaimed the lead followed by a hard drive to the rim by sophomore Cinia McCray for a three-point play giving the Aggies a 46-40 lead.
McCray opened the fourth period with two made field goals sending the Aggies on an early 6-0 run taking a 53-46 lead. FAMU’s Florence Ouattara started to catch fire scoring 11 fourth quarter points including three made 3-pointers. Her last 3’ brought the deficit to three, 62-59 followed by a pair of free throws by Shakeyrra Morrison that brought the game to 62-61 with 1:35 left in regulation.
Sophomore C’Coriea Foy gave N.C. A&T a 64-61 lead with 1:35 remaining on a jumper in the paint. Two missed shots by FAMU and a turnover with under a minute to play ended the Rattlers’ “Cinderalla Run”. McCray converted on 1-of-2 from the charity stripe as the Aggies won, 65-61.
Ouattara scored a game-high 20 points and Morrison had a double-double of 15 points with 15 rebounds against the Aggies.
“We new we had to keep the energy and defend,” said Foy. “All we know is defend, defend and defend. So when adversity hits us we just know that we need to defend to force turnovers and execute offensively.”
N.C. A&T outrebounded the Rattlers 47-39 and dominated points in the paint, 26-14. Seniors Kala Green and Quenswayla Story are the only two members left from the 2016 MEAC Tournament Championship team and will lead a group of seven sophomore, one junior and a freshman into Saturday’s championship game. “We have to get some rest tonight so that we will have fresh legs tomorrow,” said Green. “We have to be able to focus while going over scout and while we are watching the Hampton and Bethune game, we are making sure that we are clear on who we will be guarding how we will be guarding and how we are going to shut them down.”
The Aggies will take on the Pirates of Hampton University Saturday at 3:30 at the Norfolk Scopes Arena for the conference championship.