NORFOLK, Va., — Sarah Edmond scored a game-high 17 points, Ayonna Williams added 13 and Imani Bryant provided the defense as Howard held off Florida A&M, 59-53 in the opening round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Basketball Tournament at the Norfolk Scope Arena.
Howard, the No. 5 seed, will take on Norfolk State, the 4th seed, on Thursday at 2 p.m. in the quarterfinal round.
With second-leading scorer Jayla Thornton (14.7 points per game) struggling to score and fourth-leading scorer, Krislyn Marsh (10 points per game) saddled with early fouls, the Bison (18-12) turned to Edmond, their junior guard who helped her team to a 24-21 lead with 10 of her points. No other Howard player was able to effectively score but the defense with Bryant anchoring the middle forced the Rattlers (4-25) to 18 percent shooting,
“We talked about our defense setting the tone,” Howard head coach Ty Grace said. “We knew that FAMU would give us their best shot, so we had to rely on Sarah to give us points and Imani was great as a rebounder and defensive presence. This is what she has been doing all season. I personally thought that she should have been the defensive player of the year.” Bryant grabbed 11 rebounds, blocked 6 shots and proved to be a rim protector.
In the third quarter, the Rattlers went toe-to-toe with Howard until Williams gave her team a little breathing room by scoring 9 of her team’s 16 points as the Bison went into the fourth stanza with a 40-34 advantage.
Edmonds extended the margin to 43-34 in the first 1:05 with a three-pointer and a pullup jumper. The Rattler responded with a 9-2 run led by Mya Moye and Dy’Manee Royal and Keziah Dilworth,
Thornton and Marsh came alive during a key run combining for 11 of the team’s 14 points.
A key sequence came late when Williams found Marsh for an easy basket and scored on a pullup following a steal 20 second later.
“We have been here before,” said Williams, who added 4 assists and 6 rebounds. “We all have to contribute if we want to move on.”
Edmond, a second-team all-MEAC pick, was 7 of 13 from the field while assisting on 5 baskets.
“It is a good win. We move on to the next round.”
Florida A&M, which made a coaching change with games left in the regular season, was led Royal with a double-double of 16, points and 13 rebounds to go along with five blocks.
“I am proud of these young ladies and how they competed,” FAMU interim head coach Kevin Lynum said. “To go through what they did and them to compete the way they did today is encouraging for our future.”