The Hampton University men’s basketball team fell to Bethune-Cookman University, 81-72, in the semifinal round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Basketball Tournament March 9 at the Joel Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The eighth-seeded Pirates ended the season 12-21 overall, while No. 4 seed Bethune-Cookman (18-16) advanced to the MEAC championship game March 10, where the Wildcats will face either No. 2 Norfolk State or No. 11 Florida A&M.

Senior guard Darrion Pellum (Hampton, Va.) led the Pirates with 24 points on 8-for-17 shooting. He ends his career with 1,584 points, 10th most in program history.

Senior guard Christopher Tolson (Laurel, Md.) added 16 points, thanks largely to an 8-for-8 effort from the free throw line, while senior guard Mike Tuitt (Bronx, N.Y.) chipped in 11 points to go with a team-high five rebounds. Senior forward Danny Agbelese (Lanham, Md.) also had five rebounds to go along with six points and three blocks.

The Pirates jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead after an Agbelese layup at the 18:09 mark, but the Wildcats answered with a 5-0 run to claw to within 7-5 at the 15:01 mark after a layup by sophomore guard Adrien Coleman. Hampton scored five straight to take a 12-5 lead on a 3-pointer from junior guard Jasper Williams (Washington, D.C.) with 14:16 left in the half.

Hampton led 20-9 with 11:10 left in the half after another Williams three-pointer, but the Wildcats went on a 24-7 run to take a 33-27 lead at the 3:38 mark following a three-pointed freshman guard Ricky Johnson. The Wildcats went into the half up 39-31.

Bethune-Cookman scored the first four points of the second half, going up 45-31 at the 17:54 mark after a pair of successful free throws by junior forward Javoris Bryant. Junior guard Kevin Dukes gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the game at the 12:11 mark with a three-pointer to extend the lead to 55-38.

Slowly, the Pirates clawed their way back, and when Tolson hit three free throws with 2:01 to play, he cut the Wildcats’ lead to 70-65. But on the following possession, after Agbelese recorded a block, the ball kicked out to junior guard Paul Scotland on the wing, and he hit the trey with 1:11 left to put Bethune-Cookman back up 73-65. From that point on, the Pirates would get no closer than to within six points.

The Pirates shot 53.3 percent (24-for-45) from the floor and hit four of their 13 3-pointers, as well as 20 of their 27 free throws. Hampton shot 59.1 percent (13-for-22) from the floor in the second half alone, holding a 32-30 edge in points in the paint and a 23-22 edge in points off turnovers.

The Wildcats shot 49.0 percent (25-for-51) from the floor and hit eight of their 16 3-pointers. Bethune-Cookman also out-rebounded the Pirates 33-22, holding a 15-8 edge in second-chance points and a 17-8 advantage on the offensive glass.

Six Wildcats ended the night in double figures, led by 16 points from Coleman and 15 from Bryant.

Maurice Williams

Special to the AFRO