Norfolk, Va. (Mar. 12) --- The Delaware State Lady Hornets were eliminated in the first round of the MEAC Tournament falling to the North Carolina Central Lady Eagles 80-64 at the Scope Arena.
The Lady Eagles took an early 8-2 lead after a jumper from Paulina Afriyie, with 7:19 left in the first quarter. Delaware State responded with a 12-2 run, NaJai Pollard scored six of the points during the run and DSU’s response was capped off with a layup from Jamira Watkins. North Carolina Central guard Kieche White made a three-pointer just before time expired. DSU still lead though 14-13 at the end of the first quarter.
North Carolina Central spent the majority of the second quarter attacking the basket, they were rewarded with 12 attempts at the free throw line and they converted on 11 of them. They also shot 50.0% from the field and they outscored the Lady Hornets 23-15 to take a 36-29 halftime lead.
The Lady Hornets quickly found themselves down by 17, as NCCU stormed out of halftime and went on a 12-2 run. DSU responded with a 9-2 run. A three pointer from Lanayjha Ashe cut the deficit to just 10 points with 3:10 remaining. North Carolina Central regained their composer and took a 58-44 advantage into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Eagles lead increased to 20 after a layup from Caira Benton with 5:33 left in the game. The Lady Hornets went to a full court press which forced seven turnovers in the final five minutes. Delaware State was able to cut the deficit down to 11, but they only scored five points off the turnovers in the final quarter, which was not enough. Rodneysha Martin sinked a triple with 1:08 remaining, to put the game out of reach.
North Carolina Central made 25-of-51 (49.0%) on their field goal attempts, just 4-of-14 (28.6%) from three-point range. They shot a near perfect 26-of-27 (96.3%) from the free throw line.
NCCU forward Paulina Afriyie led five Lady Eagles in double figures with 21 points, she also had a game high ten rebounds.
“Congratulations to North Carolina Central for the win.” Coach Caputo said. “But I’m really proud of my team and the effort they put today and this season. We played with eight ladies for much of the season and was much improved down the stretch. We had eight steals and forced 22 turnovers today but couldn’t take advantage of some of the offensive opportunities we had.
Delaware State shot just 25-of-68 (36.8%) from the field, including only 3-of-17 (17.6%) on three-point attempts. They converted 11-of-17 (64.7%) on free throw attempts. The Lady Hornets outrebounded NCCU by two rebounds, including 18 offensive boards. However, they scored only 14 second chance points.
Senior forward NaJai Pollard led the team with 27 points and eight rebounds. Lanayjha Ashe had 14 points and six rebounds. Keke Barber added nine points.
“I gave everything I had for four years and have no regrets.” Pollard stated. I’m thankful to the coaches I’ve had and all my teammates. I have nothing but great memories of my time at Delaware State.
My regret is that I only had one year with (NaJai Pollard). Coach Caputo interjected. She is a tremendous player and an even better person. She did everything we asked, and she can be proud of all she achieved at Delaware State. I have no doubt that her playing career is not over, and we wish her well.