NORFOLK, Va. — Amere May scored 24 of his game-high 27 points, including his team’s last 14, to lead Delaware State to a 63-57 upset of North Carolina Central in the semifinal round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament at the Norfolk Scope.
The Hornets (18-16), the Number 5 seed, will take on the winner of the Norfolk State-Hampton game on Saturday at 1 pm. The game will be televised live on ESPNU.
With his team trailing by 12 to the regular season and defending tournament champions, May put his team on his back and made the plays down the stretch that mattered.
After making only one of eight from the field in the first half, the senior guard put on a show and proved to be unstoppable.
The sharpshooting guard connected on 6 of 13 from the field, three of six from beyond that arc and 9 of 10 from the charity stripe in the final 20 minutes.
May, who scored 48 and 42 points in games this year, scored in a variety of ways from long jumpers, to step back baskets to some clutch free throw shooting.
“With our starting point guard Kendall Williams out (foot injury), we had to do some innovative things,” said Delaware State coach Keith Walker. “We moved Amere to the point. He is a playmaker. He surprised us with what he was able to do.”
It started at the 3:43 mark, when he made one of two free throws—his only miss-to get his team to within 53-50.
He followed with a long three pointer on the Hornets’ next possession to tie the score at 53 with 3:24 on the clock. North Carolina Central’s Jordan Parks helped the Eagles (25-7) regain the lead at 55-53.
It did not take May long to respond as he hit a step-back jumper with 2:42 to tie the score again t 55-all.
Following a North Carolina Central miss, May canned four straight free throws to give the Hornets a 59-55 lead at the 1:02 mark.
Nimrod Hilliard, a first team All-MEAC selection, would score on a short jumper on the Eagles’ next possession to get his team to within 59-57 with 44 seconds left.
On the North Carolina Central ensuing possession, Dante Holmes was called for a player control foul.
Delaware State’s Charles Burley was quickly fouled on the Hornets’ next possession, but the senior guard missed both free throws to leave the door open for the defending champs, who went undefeated during the regular season.
But the Eagles could not capitalize as they uncharacteristically turned the ball over on their next possession.
They were forced to foul and May made them pay by knocking down four straight free throws to put the game away and send them to championship game.
Ironically, it was May who missed some free throws early in the season when the two teams met and North Carolina Central was able to escape with a 55-54 win.
“We should have won there, but we missed some free throws down the stretch,” recalls Walker of the game in Durham, N.C. on January 26.
Added May, “I watch that play all the time. Someone videotaped it and I watched it over and over again.”
Tyshawn Bell added 16 points and eight rebounds for Delaware State while Kendall Gray and each scored seven points to aid the cause. The Hornets got a pleasant surprise from Mrdjan Gasevic, a seldom used sophomore from Serbia.
“Gasevic brings a lot of fire and desire to our team,” said Walker. “He stepped up for us and was a big asset for us.” He scored only four points and grabbed two rebounds, but his energy helped the Hornets when Gray and Bell were in foul trouble.
North Carolina Central was led by Hilliard with 17 and seven assists, Jordan Parks with a double double of 14 points, 10 rebounds, Anthony McDonald with 13 and Holmes with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
North Carolina Central Coach Levelle Moton took blame for the loss.
“I take the blame for the loss,” he said. “My job as a leader of the team is to find a way and tonight I didn’t.”
MEAC Sports Information