From Savannah State Sports Information
NORFOLK, Va., March 14, 2015 – Powered by a strong second half and four players in double figures, No. 2 seed Savannah State ended Maryland Eastern Shore’s historic run with a 65-47 win in the championship game Saturday afternoon at Norfolk Scope Arena, winning its first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) title.
The Lady Tigers (21-10) earn the MEAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament; they will learn their opponent, location, and date when the bracket is unveiled on Monday at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN.
“I told (the team) to put in a great effort, that you’re playing for your teammates,” Savannah State head coach Cedric Baker said. “I told them that it’s an honor and a privilege to be in Norfolk playing in the MEAC Tournament, so play first-class, high-level basketball and have fun.”
Jasmine Norman led the way for Savannah State with 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting, while Ezinne Kalu added 16 points and Bria Dorsey chipped in 12. Tiyonda Davis added 10 points and a team-high 16 rebounds.
Norman eclipsed 1,000 career points in the contest. She is only the second player in SSU’s Division I history to reach the milestone. Kalu was the first.
Norman was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, while Kalu was also named to the All-Tournament Team. Cedric Baker, who was also named MEAC Coach of the Year, earned the tournament’s Most Outstanding Coach honor.
Despite the fact that UMES only briefly led in the game, the first half was a tight back-and-forth affair that saw the Lady Tigers never lead by more than two possessions. A layup from Davis at the 10:42 mark gave Savannah State a 20-16 lead, before the Lady Hawks, playing their fourth game in five days, used a 6-2 spurt to tie the game at 22-22 after a Mariah McCoy layup.
Norman broke that tie with a jumper 13 seconds later, before Shawney Sweeney gave UMES its only lead of the game, hitting a three at the 6:09 mark to put the Lady Hawks up 25-24.
But Savannah State held UMES scoreless for the rest of the half, while scoring six more points in its own right – taking a 30-25 lead at the 3:09 mark on a Norman jumper.
That was the last basket of the half for either team.
Still, the momentum the Lady Tigers established in the closing minutes of the first half carried over into the second half, all while UMES’ magic appeared to finally run out. The eighth-seeded Lady Hawks upset the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds to advance to the title game, but once the second half started, Savannah State jumped out and took control, going up 38-25 before UMES scored in the frame.
All told, Savannah State opened the second half on a 23-8 run, taking a 53-33 lead with 10:29 left to play after Kenyata Hendrix nailed a trey. TeAmber Burke later cut the lead to 55-38 with a layup with 6:46 to play, but the Lady Tigers quelled any potential rally with an 8-0 run.
Dorsey’s jumper with 4:32 left capped that run and gave Savannah State a 63-38 lead.
Savannah State, which outscored eighth-seeded UMES 35-22 in the second half, shot 58 percent (29-for-50) from the floor, caused 17 turnovers, and out-rebounded the Lady Hawks 35-30.
UMES (14-17) shot 33.3 percent (18-for-54) from the floor and hit nine of 21 3-pointers (42.9 percent).
McCoy led the Lady Hawks with 12 points. Burke and Sweeney each had 10 points.
For players like Kalu, this championship was a culmination of years of hard work, struggles, and everything in between.
“It means the world (to win the championship),” Kalu said. “We came a long way. We went from being the last seed to the second seed and now we’re the champions.”
Added Norman: “It’s surreal.”