Hampton University’s women’s basketball team employed the same formula that it has used throughout the tournament: keeping the game close through the first half and then parlaying the scoring of its three veterans, junior Melanie Warner, senior Quanneisha Perry and junior Jericka Jenkins along with some stifling second half defense to pull away from its opponents. 

The Lady Pirates continued that same formula to defeat Howard University, 61-42 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) women’s tournament championship on March 12 at the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“It is interesting that these two teams are 1-2 in the conference in scoring defense,” said Hampton head Coach David Six, in his second year at the helm. “In the first half, we were feeling each other out. But in the second half, we got things going. We knew that if we did not turn the ball over and rebound well, we would win the game. We have been consistent in those areas all season.”

Hampton (25-6 overall record) now receives an automatic bid to the NCAA women’s basketball championship tournament and will await the pairings that will be announced on March 14.

The first half was a grind-it-out affair with neither team being able to generate much offense. Both teams shot under 30 percent, but the seasoned Lady Pirates, who won their second straight tournament title, did just enough to maintain a 21-16 advantage at the half.

Perry, the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year and a first team All-MEAC selection, struggled early but came on down the stretch to give her team a push. She scored six points and grabbed six rebounds while Warner added four and reserve Keiara Avant, a sophomore, tallied five.

Hampton came out and imposed its will on the young Howard team, which is dominated by sophomores and who were playing in their first tournament championship.

“I think Hampton’s experience was definitely a factor, especially when you have players like Warner, Jenkins and Perry,” said Howard Coach Niki Geckeler. “But that was not the overriding factor. We just lost our legs. We played four games to get here. We are very young and I am excited about the future.”

Howard (16-18 overall) struggled offensively. Even their leading scorer, MEAC Player of the Year Saadia Doyle, had problems getting touches and starting point guard Cheyenne Curley-Payne, a sophomore who was had an outstanding tournament before this game, was held scoreless.
“Their defense was really sagging and helping out a lot,” said Doyle, a Howard redshirt sophomore, who finished with a game-high 16 points and seven rebounds. “It made it hard to penetrate and we did not knock down the shots that we shot earlier in the tournament.”

Sophomore guard Tamoria Holmes would lead Howard with 12 points in a losing effort, while Curley-Payne pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds.

As for Hampton coach Six, he will now advance to his second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

“Our performance in the NCAAs last year left a bad taste in our mouths,” said Six. “We wanted an opportunity to get back there and atone ourselves. We do not just want to be there; we want to win. I think we are good enough to win.”