Norfolk State outscored North Carolina Central 14-7 in overtime to earn a 72-65 win and a trip to Saturday’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament final.
The Eagles’ Justin Wright forced the overtime when he nailed a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds on the clock, deadlocking the contest at 58-all.
The Spartans, who will be seeking their third straight tournament title, will meet top-seeded Howard at 1 p.m. Saturday in an ESPN2 live telecast from the Scope Arena.
Howard earned a berth in the title game with a 74-55 win over Maryland Eastern Shore.
Joe Bryant, Jr. had 23 points, including a 15-for-18 performance from the free throw line, and 10 rebounds to lead head coach Robert Jones’ team. Bryant had 10 of his total in the extra period, including 6-for-6 from the line. Kris Bankston contributed 20 points and eight boards in the win.
Also in double figures for the Spartans were Caheim Brown with 12 points, including 8-11 free throws, and Dana Tate added 10 points.
Norfolk State improved to 22-10 on the season.
NCCU, which ended its campaign 18-12, was led by Justin Wright and reserve Kris Monroe with 13 points each. Eric Boone and Fred Cleveland, Jr. added 11 points each. Wright and Boone had seven and six rebounds, respectively, for the Eagles.
Following a see-saw first half that saw Norfolk State take a 22-20 cushion to the locker room, the Spartans built a 39-29 advantage with 11:25 to play. NCCU, however, came storming back and pulled to within four, 48-44, on a 3-pointer by Devin Butts with 4:41 to play.
Brown and Bryant led a Spartan parade to the free throw line, combining for eight straight but NCCU would not go away and pulled to within 56-55 on an inside basket by Brendan Medley-Bacon with 14.7 seconds left in regulation.
The Spartan’s Terrence Jones was fouled with 5.6 seconds remaining and canned both opportunities to give Norfolk State a 58-55 edge. Wright took the inbounds pass from Boone in the front court and took a few dribbles before putting up a 3-pointer which was true, forcing the extra period.
Norfolk took control in overtime, scoring eight of the first 11 points to go ahead 66-61 lead at 2:17 of the overtime period. Medley-Bacon got two free throws to slice the lead to 66-63 with 1:38 remaining but Bryant, Jr. iced for the Spartans with six straight free throws for the final margin.