NORFOLK, Va., – North Carolina Central shot 55.6 percent from the floor in the second half and got 10 big points from Ja’Darius Harris to defeat Maryland Eastern Shore 68-56 to advance to the semifinal round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament for the seventh time in the Division I era on Thursday inside Scope Arena.
NCCU (16-14) started the game on a 6-0 run, but five early points from Nathaniel Pollard Jr. allowed the Hawks (11-15) to close the gap to just three at 10-7, six minutes into the game. The Eagles and Hawks traded bucket for bucket and stayed close to each other for the majority of the half, but NCCU kept Eastern Shore at bay for a 30-25 lead after 20 minutes.
The Hawks gave the Eagles a dose of their own medicine to start the second half, as it outscored NCCU 11-4 in the first five minutes of the period. That included a 7-0 run that culminated in a pull-up jumper from Dom London to give the Hawks their first lead of the game at 36-34.
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That lead was short-lived, as the Eagles rattled off a 10-0 run to reclaim the advantage for good over the next five minutes to lead, 44-36, with 10 minutes to play. From that point on, Maryland Eastern Shore would not come any closer than five points, and NCCU was able to come away with a 68-56 victory to move on to the semifinal round.
Harris propelled the Eagles in the second half as he made his first three shots of the half, including two treys and two free throws, and posted 10 points all in the second 20 minutes of the contest.
NCCU had a total of five players reach double-digits, led by Nicolas Fennell with a team-best 15 points and seven rebounds, and he went 5-for-5 from the floor. Justin Wright contributed 14 points with six rebounds, and he scored 11 of those points in the first half.
Eric Boone supplied 12 points with six boards as well for the Eagles.
Pollard posted a big game with 19 points and seven rebounds for MDES, and Kevon Voyles was the second Hawk to surpass 10 points with 13. Zion Styles was a big contributor with eight points and six rebounds, along with London with nine points.
NCCU will face seventh-seeded Coppin State in the semifinal round on Friday at 8 p.m.