NORFOLK, Va. – If March is about making history in college basketball, then Maryland Eastern Shore is right on track.
Never mind that No. 8 next to the Lady Hawks’ name on the bracket; it didn’t mean much in Wednesday’s quarterfinal upset over top seed and five-time defending champion Hampton, and it meant even less in Friday’s semifinal against No. 4 Norfolk State, a 69-64 overtime win at Norfolk Scope Arena.
In picking up their 14th win of the season, the Lady Hawks advanced to their first-ever MEAC Tournament championship game. UMES will face either No. 2 Savannah State or No. 3 North Carolina A&T at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The Lady Hawks beat both teams in the regular season.
“It was really a challenge to beaty (Norfolk State) and advance,” UMES head coach Fred Batchelor said.
A pair of free throws from Moengaroa Subritzky gave UMES a 56-53 lead with 37 seconds left in regulation, and it appeared the Lady Hawks would survive Norfolk State’s comeback attempt.
But Rae Corbo hit both free throws with 26 seconds left, and Kayla Roberts went 1-for-2 at the line with two ticks on the clock to force the extra session.
All this after UMES took a 43-31 lead with 14:17 left in the second half following a 3-pointer from Subritzky.
From there, the Spartans (14-16) ended the second half on a 25-12 run, clawing their way back into the game largely on the backs of Corbo (eight second-half points) and Jazamine Gray (15 points for the game).
The two teams traded baskets to open the overtime session, before Alexus Hicks gave the Lady Hawks the lead for good with a top-of-the-key trey with 3:25 left, putting UMES up 61-58. Subritzky followed with a layup with 2:11 remaining to give UMES a two-possession lead.
A free throw from Subritzky with 27 seconds left put UMES up 68-60.
Also key to the Lady Hawks’ success in the overtime period was a critical defensive possession for UMES in which Long drew a charge from MEAC Rookie of the Year Kayla Roberts.
“I knew she was going in to score,” Long said, “so I just decided to get in front of her. I wasn’t going to block the shot, so I just took the charge.”
UMES outscored Norfolk State 13-8 in the extra frame, going 4-for-6 from the floor while the Spartans shot just 3-for-12 in overtime.
Subritzky, who scored a game-high 21 points, gave UMES a 13-8 lead with her first trey of the afternoon at the 12:06 mark of the first half, but the Spartans responded by going on a 9-3 run, taking a 17-16 lead at the 9:35 mark after a 3-pointer from Corbo, who led Norfolk State with 18 points.
But Jessica Long, the hero against Hampton, hit two free throws with 9:12 left in the half, it gave UMES an 18-17 lead and kicked off a 12-4 run – one that saw the Lady Hawks take a 28-21 lead at the 2:31 mark after a trey from TeAmber Burke.
UMES led 30-28 at the half.
The Lady Hawks (14-16) then opened the second half on a 13-3 run, a run that culminated in the aforementioned trey from Subritzky that gave UMES its largest lead of the game.
Subritzky went 5-for-8 from the floor in tying her career high in points, hitting four 3-pointers and going 7-for-10 from the free throw line. Long added 16 points.
UMES became the first women’s team since South Carolina State in 2010 to advance to the conference title game after playing in the first round.
This will be the Lady Hawks’ fourth game in five days. This is also a UMES squad that boasts wins over all of the MEAC’s upper echelon teams – in both the regular season and the tournament.
“We’re a pretty resilient group,” Batchelor said. “Sometimes, it almost bothers me because it doesn’t bother (the players) either way. But at the same time, it’s the reason why they’ve been able to overcome some things.
“If we lose, we lose. We’re not going to play out of fear. We’re not going to play just because we don’t want to upset anybody. We’re going to play basketball and we’re going to have fun doing it.”
MEAC Sports Information