By ALVIN HOLLINS JR.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C (March 9) – The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament moved to the semifinal round during Day Five of play here at the Lawrence Joel Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum Friday evening, with second-seeded Norfolk State and fourth-seeded Bethune-Cookman winning to capture spots in Saturday’s nationally televised final (on ESPN2 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern).
The Wildcats withstood a strong second half surge and earned their first-ever Finals spot with an 81-72 win over last year’s tournament champion Hampton.
The victorious Wildcats, which led 39-31 at the break, built their lead to double digits several times in the second half, the last time at 64-54 with 5:36, before Hampton went on an 11-6 run over the next four minutes to slice the B-CU lead to 70-65 with 1:11 left. Paul Scotland’s triple ended HU’s run and extended the ‘Cats lead to 73-65.
Scotland added a pair of free throws with 1:00 left to push the B-CU lead back to double digits, 75-65, with the game becoming a battle of fouls and free throws.
Adrien Coleman led the Wildcats with 16 points and five rebounds, Jarvis Bryant added 15 points and nine rebounds, and Ricky Johnson chipped in 12 points.
Darrion Pellum led all scorers with 24 points for Hampton, followed by Chris Tolson with 16 points and Mike Tuitt with 11.
In the night’s second semifinal contest, MEAC Player of the Year Kyle O’Quinn led the Norfolk State Spartans to a 58-46 win over spoiler FAMU. O’Quinn finished the night with 13 points and eight rebounds.
The Wildcats and Spartans square off Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. in the conference finals. NSU defeated the Cats 75-72 earlier this season in historic Moore Gymnasium. The finals will be broadcasted live on ESPN2.