For the second consecutive season, the Norfolk State women’s basketball team will finish the regular season atop the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference standings.
This time, they did it as outright champions.
The Spartans dominated from start to finish on Monday night in avenging their last loss with a 79-67 victory over North Carolina Central at McDougald-McLendon Arena. Just a mere five minutes after the conclusion of NSU’s win in Durham, Morgan State saw its chances of potentially sharing the top spot vanish in a 73-70 loss to Maryland Eastern Shore.
With the victory, Norfolk State has earned the No. 1 seed in next week’s MEAC tournament.
Camille Downs scored 14 of her game-high and season-high 25 points in the first half, including nine in the first period, to pace Norfolk State. She went 9-for-11 from the floor, to go along with five assists, four rebounds, one steal, and one blocked shot. Kierra Wheeler posted a double-double with 19 points and 14 boards, with three steals and one blocked shot, while Deja Francis recorded 10 points, a team-high seven assists, two steals, and two rebounds.
Kira Lowery recorded 12 of her team-high 18 points in the first quarter and added three rebounds and three assists. Aniya Finger registered a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds, with one steal.
Much like Saturday against South Carolina State, the Spartans (23-5 overall, 11-2 MEAC) quickly raced out to a big lead, opening the game on a 7-2 run, capped by a Downs 3-pointer with 7:36 remaining.
Back came North Carolina Central, closing the gap to 9-8 after free throws by Kira Lowery and Morgan Callahan and the Eagles tied the game at 11 on a triple by Lowery with 4:44 left in the period.
Lowery, who scored 12 first-quarter points, ended the period on a three-point play as North Carolina Central took a 16-15 advantage into the second quarter.
Norfolk State began the second on an 8-0 run, capped by back-to-back layups by Wheeler as the Spartans grabbed a 23-16 lead with 7:37 left.
Buckets by Nia Ford and Kimia Carter cut the deficit to 23-21, but Norfolk State used a 14-3 run over the next four minutes to push the advantage to 37-24 with 1:33 remaining.
The two teams traded buckets down the stretch as the Spartans took a 39-28 lead into the break.
The Spartans held the Eagles scoreless for the first 3:27 of the third quarter in building a 49-28 advantage.
Norfolk State went cold from the floor shooting, going more than four minutes without a bucket as NCCU closed the gap to 56-40 with 1:22 remaining.
The Spartans got baskets by Mahoganie Williams and Downs as Norfolk State took a commanding 61-42 lead into the final period.
North Carolina Central (13-15, 7-6) refused to go away quietly as the Eagles used a 10-2 run, capped by an Aniya Finger layup, to close the deficit to 68-56 with 5:48 remaining.
However, the Spartans closed the door on any comeback attempt as Wheeler scored six of the next eight NSU points in extending the advantage to 78-59 with 2:42 left.
Courtesy: Norfolk State Athletics