NORFOLK, Va., March 12, 2020–Kieche White scored a game-high 19 points, Anissa Rivera added 14 and Paulina Afriyie recorded a double-double of 13 points and 15 rebounds to lead North Carolina Central to a 56-54 win over North Carolina A&T State in the quarterfinal round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Basketball Tournament at the Scope Arena.
It was the third time that the two rivals met this season and the Eagles won all three.
The Eagles (13-17), the No. 5 seed, advanced to Friday’s semifinal against Maryland Eastern Shore, the No. 8 seed, at 12 p.m.
Both teams got off to a slow start, shooting a combined 3-for-28 from the field with NCCU holding to an 8-7 lead. The shooting improved and NCCU got some distance when it took a nine-point lead early in the second quarter.
But the Aggies (19-10), the No. 4 seed, rallied to tie the game at 26-all at the half.
“That first half was not pretty to watch, but we were focused on playing defense,” NCCU third-year head coach Trisha Stafford Odom said. “We were able to turn them over and turn them into points. That was critical in the game.”
It was the trio of White with her floor generalship, Afriyie with her inside play and Rivera with her timely contributions that proved to be the winning formula.
“There was never a time when we thought about losing,” Afriyie, a First Team All-MEAC selection and one of three seniors on the team, said. “We went through the early years when everyone joked about us going home early for spring break because we were not respected. We came into the tournament this year with a strong mindset that that will not happen this year.”
The win marked the first time the Eagles have advanced to the semifinal round since re-joining the MEAC in 2011-12.
White was effective throughout, settling the team down and providing big shots when needed.
“It’s my job to energize this team, but I feel that it is important to take over when necessary in the fourth quarter,” White, who scored seven of her team’s points down the stretch with the game hanging in the balance, said.
The Aggies won the battle on the boards 48-39 and blocked 11 shots, but they could not overcome the turnovers and poor shooting.