Hampton players celebrate after beating Howard to win the women’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship tournament Saturday, March 12, 2011 in Winston-Salem, N.C. Hampton won 61-42. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Quanneisha Perry, Jerika Jenkins and Melanie Warner scored 13 points apiece and Hampton pulled away in the second half to beat Howard 61-42 on Saturday for a second consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship.
The top-seeded Lady Pirates (25-6) won their 13th straight game and earned a return trip to the NCAA tournament behind a suffocating defense that limited the Lady Bison (16-18) to 28 percent shooting.
Leading only 21-16 at halftime, Hampton took control with a 9-0 run that included Keiara Avant’s consecutive buckets to make it 35-21 with 12:33 left.
Saadia Doyle had 16 points and seven rebounds and Tamoria Holmes added 12 points for sixth-seeded Howard, which upset North Carolina A&T and Morgan State to reach its first MEAC final since 2001.
It was the end of a successful day for Hampton, whose men’s basketball team beat Morgan State 60-55 on the same floor a few hours earlier for its own MEAC crown. Men’s players, wearing championship T-shirts and hats, cheered on the final seconds from behind the Hampton bench.
The women’s team’s third straight victory over Howard this season marked another milestone for second-year coach David Six, who clapped and hugged his assistant coaches as the buzzer sounded.
Now the Lady Pirates hope to be more competitive in the NCAA tournament than last season, when they were overwhelmed by Duke, 72-37.
Holding onto the ball would help, and Hampton did a good job with that, committing only 12 turnovers. It also dominated the glass with a 41-29 rebounding edge and forced 17 turnovers.
Howard used a packed-in zone to slow the game and limit possessions, but eventually wore down as Hampton was able to eventually get the ball inside.
Doyle, the MEAC player of the year, hit 8 of 11 free throws and added seven rebounds, but Howard never got into an offensive flow.
Cheyenne Curley-Payne grabbed 10 rebounds for the Lady Bison, but missed all nine of her field goal attempts. Howard, which trailed by as many as 19 points, also missed 10 of 12 from 3-point range.