Saturday, March 11, 2017
North Carolina Central: 2016-17 Mid-Eastern Men's Basketball Champions
The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference had a new champion crowned on Saturday afternoon. The No. 1-seeded North Carolina Central beat No. 2 Norfolk State 67-59 in the MEAC Conference tournament championship game.
Things were tight in the first half, with North Carolina Central heading to the locker room trailing 38-35 at halftime. The Eagles had an impressive defensive effort in the second half, holding the Spartans to just 21 points, including an 11-minute scoring drought that ended with three minutes left in the half.
The Eagles’ offense was led by senior guard Patrick Cole, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on the day. Cole is North Carolina Central’s leading scorer, averaging 20 points per game.
With the victory on Saturday, North Carolina Central has officially punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament, just the second time in school history the team has made the tournament. The last time the Eagles made it to the tournament was in 2014, and they lost in the second round that year.
The No. 1-seeded North Carolina Central got past Bethune-Cookman and Maryland-Eastern Shore in the first quarter and semifinal rounds to advance to the championship game. Norfolk State, on the other hand, survived a tough South Carolina State team, needing overtime to get the 93-88 victory in the first round. The Spartans beat the No. 11 seed Howard in the semifinals to advance.
Hampton, the conference’s reigning champion from 2016, entered as the No. 4 seed. The Pirates lost to Maryland Eastern Shore 68-66 in the quarterfinal round, finishing their season with a 14-16 overall record.