NORFOLK, VA – The short-handed South Carolina State women dug a deep hole early against top-seeded North Carolina A&T and were unable to recover on Wednesday, falling 54-38 to the Lady Aggies in quarterfinal action of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament at The Scope.
The ninth-seeded Lady Bulldogs were unable to match the energy and productivity they showed on Tuesday in an opening-round 76-67 win over North Carolina Central. Their season ended with a 12-18 record.
Coach Doug Robertson’s team, with only nine players in uniforms, was outscored 27-6 in the first half, but came back with an 18-12 third quarter to muster a glimmer of hope, closing the period trailing 39-24.
But NC A&T, with its superior height advantage, regained the edge, and finished with a 15-14 fourth period to earn the victory, their second in as many meetings over the Lady Bulldogs this season.
“We knew playing against NC A&T would be a real challenge for us,” said Robertson. “Coach Tarrell Robinson had his team prepared to play us and I take my hat off to him and his team. But, had we had a better first and second quarter, we could have made things interesting.
"We needed to play extremely well against them to have a chance.”
Bryeasha Blair, one of two Lady Bulldog players completing their S.C. State careers, had a game-high 16 points and a team-best seven rebounds to lead S.C. State. Esther Udonsi came off the bench for seven points and four boards in the loss.
Regina Garrett, the only other senior on the team, was one of three S.C. State players with four points each. Dashanique Peterson and Jaquanna Murray also contributed four points.
NC A&T was led by Alexux Lessears with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Reserve Kala Green added 13 points and five boards in the win, which lifted the Lady Aggies to 21-8. They advanced to Friday’s semifinals against the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal match-up between Florida A&M and Savannah State.
Robertson thanked his team for its efforts during the campaign, in which S.C. State more than doubled its win total over last year’s squad, despite having six new players and facing lots of ups and downs during the campaign.
“Obviously, we wanted our season to end with a championship,” said Robertson, “However, we knew it would be a daunting task in this tournament. All teams face adversity but we had an extreme situation, where we came in short-handed without one starter and our second-leading scorer (Kemoni Jenkins). And, in our game against NC Central on Tuesday, we lost our top reserve (Kyesha Lewis).
“I give credit to this team, especially the seniors (Blair and Garrett) who took on a leadership role and helped us to improve a great deal over last year. We were 12-18 overall and 6-10 in the league, as opposed to 5-12 and 2-14 last season. So we made some strides and hope to do even better in the future.”
Blair, a graduate student, also noted the improvement the team made and thanked her teammates.
“I’m proud at how far we came this year,” she said. “We doubled our win total, despite having six new players.
"We are not satisfied at how our season ended, but this team showed a lot of pride and I thank my teammates for their efforts.”
Garrett said she enjoyed her Lady Bulldog career and especially thanked Robertson for giving her a chance to play at S.C. State.
“I’m happy we made it as far as we did and in the improvement of the team,” Garrett said. “And, I’d like to thank Coach Roberson who brought me in on a hope that I’d be able to help the team. And, I’m proud of the team and the steps we took forward.”
S.C. State, after scoring 41 first-half points in a 76-67 win over NC Central on Tuesday, scored just six points in the opening half Wednesday against the top-seeded Lady Aggies, its lowest output of the season in a half. The deficit was 14-2 after one quarter.
NC A&T took advantage of 19 Lady Bulldog turnovers.