Norfolk Women’s Hoops Advance to the Semifinals

MEAC Tournament – Game 1 – March 13, 1024 – The SCOPE, Norfolk, VA
NORFOLK, VA – Junior guard Diamond Johnson and junior forward Kierra Wheeler tossed in 19 points each to power top-seeded Norfolk State to a 75-43 win over South Carolina State, the eighth seed, Wednesday in opening-round action of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament at the Norfolk Scope.
Wheeler and Johnson, both All-MEAC first-team selections, had seven and six rebounds, respectively in the win for Coach Larry Vickers’ squad.
The Spartans, who improved to 25-5, will meet the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal contest between number four seed Coppin State and fifth-seed Maryland Eastern Shore on Friday at 12 noon.

SC State, with only eight players available, was paced by senior Cassandra Colon with nine points and graduate Jayah Hicks with seven points, three rebounds and three steals each, and two assists. The Lady Bulldogs ended their season at 2-28.

Wednesday’s win over SC State was the Spartans’ third in as many outings over Coach Tim Eatman’s team. Norfolk State swept the regular season series, winning by big margins both times – 94-33 at Orangeburg and 87-25 in Norfolk.

However, in Wednesday’s contest, the Spartans started slowly but still managed a 34-20 lead at the break. Coach Vickers’ team broke open the contest with a 21-8 third quarter that put Norfolk State ahead 55-28 after three quarters. The Spartans outscored the Lady Bulldogs 20-15 in the final period.SC State took a 4-2 lead in the first two minutes of the opening period before a 13-3 spree gave Norfolk State a 15-7 lead at 3:12 of the period.

The Lady Bulldogs closed the gap to 17-12 on a 3-pointer by Morgan Beachum, who finished with six points, as did Jordan Releford, for SC State, before the top seed took a 20-14 lead after one.

Norfolk State picked up the pace in the second period and took a 34-20 cushion to the break, however, it was a big third period that put the game away. Johnson and Wheeler came alive in the quarter, scoring eight and seven points, respectively, during the 21-8 quarter that put their team safely ahead at 55-28.

“We started slowly and I thinks the early 12 noon start may have had something to do with it.” Vickers said. “But, we got things going in the second period and had a dominant third quarter to take control of the game.”

The Spartans connected on 30-64 attempts for a 47.5 percent accuracy from the field, while limiting the Lady Bulldogs to just 35.9 percent (14-39). Vickers’ team also forced 31 SC State turnovers while committing just 12. Norfolk scored 36 points off turnovers to just six for the Lady Bulldogs.

SC State’s Eatman congratulated the Spartans on moving on in the tournament but also lauded the play of his team, which had only eight players available.

“I’m proud of the effort of my team,” he said. “We knew Norfolk State would be a challenge as they handled us easily during the regular season. We played hard, had some good moments.”